Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Horses Ass

RAILROAD TRACKS 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 designed the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like
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 had used for building wagons,
which used that wheel spacing.

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 (including England )
for their legions. Those 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.
Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of
4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original
specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.
Bureaucracies live forever.

The next time you are handed a
and wonder 'What horse's ass
came up with this?', you may be
exactly right. Imperial Roman
army chariots were made just
wide enough to accommodate
the rear ends of two war horses.
(Two horses' butts.)

Now - the twist to the story:
A Space Shuttle sitting on its

launch pad has 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 a factory in Utah .

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,
and 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!

No comments: