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Im Brennpunkt der Wissenschaft
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Titel: Im Brennpunkt der Wissenschaft
Verfasst am: Do, 10 März 2005, 11:06
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Something for engineers to think about ...


Does the statement, "We've always done it that way" ring any bells...?
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5
inches. That is an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used? Because that is the way they built them in
England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines
were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and
that is the gauge they used.

Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the
tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building
wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Okay!

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they
tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of
the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the
wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long
distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have
been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts,
which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon
wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were
alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard
railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original
specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

And bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a spec and
told we have always done it that way and wonder what horse's arse came up
with that, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war
chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

Now the twist to the story....When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on
its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of
the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are
made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the
SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to
be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line
from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The
SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the
railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide
as two horses' behinds.

Therefore, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the
world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two
thousand years ago by the width of a Horse's arse.

And you thought being a horse's arse wasn't important??!!

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