165: Turn Signals
Title text: I'm not very good at meeting people.
Turn Signals are designed to flash between 60 and 120 times per minute. Most turn signals are driven by an electromechanical device. Due to manufacturing tolerances, battery state of charge, ambient temperature, and various other factors, two different turn signals rarely flash at the same rate, even among cars of the same make and model. Having two cars with turn signals flashing at the same rate would be a rare event.
Cueball notices this event, and expresses his excitement to the driver of the other car, despite being stopped at an intersection. The other driver is confused by this. Turn signal frequency is something that most people don't take notice of. Cueball, however, takes it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation and make a new friend. The title text refers to the fact that this is probably not a good strategy for making friends.
The beat frequency is the rate at which two frequencies transition from being in phase with each other to being out of phase and then to being in phase again. In other words, two turn signals that begin by flashing together will transition to flashing opposite each other and then back to flashing together, and the rate at which this process cycles is the beat frequency. Because the beat frequency is simply the difference between the two turn signal frequencies, two turn signals whose frequencies are closer together will take longer to pass through the in-phase/out-of-phase cycle, and two signals whose frequencies are identical would take an infinite time (i.e., their relative phase never changes). The beating of turn signals is an easy phenomenon to observe when one is stopped at a traffic light with nothing to do but watch the flashing turn signals, and it is the lack of beating that Cueball noticed and excitedly reported.
- [Two cars are seen sitting at a red light. One person is seen walking from his car up to the driver of the car in front of him. The turn signals of both cars seem to be blinking at the same time.]
- Person in Street: Hey, our turn signals are in sync!
- Person in Car: What the hell?
- Person in Street: Usually they're at least a little off. But I've been watching like 30 seconds and haven't seen any beat frequency!
- Person in Car: Who are you?
- Person in Street: You know, from the beat frequency you can tell the difference in timing of the two signals.
- Person in Car: ...
- Person in Street: But ours are the same!
- Person in Car: ...
- Person in Street: So, wanna hang out later?
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