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Rosti 

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That great bastion of innovation the USA uses a standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) of 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why?

Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way we built them in England, and English expatriates designed 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 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.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process 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' asses.)

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, 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 such problem with behives then!
 

Mike a 

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I was staggered to learn many years ago now but the Hubble telescope was designed and built by various companies around the world. Drawings were produced and sent back and fourth to all the partners throughout the process until each part was completed and finally assembled.

After a long set of prechecks and software updates the telescope finally started to capture images which didn't met expectations. Finally they figured out the problem was a simple error in traslation between imperial and metric measurements and the fact that they only carried two numbers beyond the decimile point.

Launch the shuttle again to fit a 1mm thick washer behind the giant mirror so it would focus properly.



As for Concorde if you ignore it was losing money every flight it was still the worlds greatest aviation triumph and they downed the fleet after the first crash.
 

oliver90owner 

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Mike a,

You may be right but I think you will find they needed to make a news lens for the Hubble Telescope. The original had some aberration, as the calculations for 'sag' in the glass were incorrect for 'weightlessness' in orbit compared to manufacture in conditions of 9.81 N/kg (maybe that was where they went wrong, assuming the average value and making it in a part of the planet with differing value?).

The story goes that one of the Mars probes missed, due to incorrect 'metres to feet-and-inches conversion'.

Regards, RAB
 

Mike a 

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Thanks Rab

:biggrinjester:

I watched a programme on The Discovery Channel many years ago and they never went into the level of detail you have posted, it was more of a summary of the problems that plagued the mission from the start and what they had to do to solve them. I was duped :dupe:

Hubble Info

Just looked up the info on Wiki (not the best source of accurate info I know) but it confirms your reply which definitely shots down my first post. I guess the producers and researchers couldn't get expert advice and had watched Blue Peter the previous night...

:blush5:
 

madasafish 

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if you ever worked in the car industry, you would know all about tooling restrictions defining future designs... Jaguar's XK engine - the one that won Le Mans and powered all their cars till c 1970 - and was still in production in 1982 - was machined on equipment that Standard sold iirc pre 1950 as it was out of date....


And the US basically ignored the advent of the disk brake in the 1960s as the auto industry had invested in automatic drum manufacture...
 

Repwoc 

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... standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) of 4 feet, 8.5 inches.
Brunel tried to change it (to 7 feet I think), but the standard gauge was too entrenched already and eventully prevailed. A pity - high speed trains would be much more stable had broad gauge been adopted instead.
 

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