Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"We've always done it this way

I got this somewhere else...

Does the statement, "We've always done
it that way" ring any bells? ... read to the end...
it was a new one for me.
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between
the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly
odd number. Why was that gauge used?
Because that's 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's 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 all 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 specification and
wonder what horse's ass came up with it, 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 at 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.
So, 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 ass.
..... and you thought being a HORSE'S ASS wasn't important!


Blogger K said...

What a great story! Loved it.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Parker said...

This is all some big FreeMason-Illuminati conspiracy - but what the hell? - i'm in

1:05 PM  
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