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Entries in Machinery (33)


Telling Time

Nowadays, one merely has to look at an electric clock plugged into the wall socket to determine the time, or glance down at a battery-operated watch.  Our ancient ancestors relied on devices a little more cumbersome  (and nowhere near as accurate)---the sundial and the water clock.  The second invention, introduced sometime around 1600 BC, was also the first timepiece that would allow one to tell time at night:

Water clocks are still in use today, as the following example illustrates:

As with many 'firsts' in antiquity, dates are approximate. An Egyptian water clock has been found that dates back to around 1417 BC; the Babylonians are believed to have utilized these devices as early as 2000 BC; and there are claims that the Chinese invented it back in 3000 (although there is little physical evidence to support this). The reference to 1600 BC above dates to a period near the end of the First Babylonian Dynasty.



Big Trucks

When making that big move out of town,  it's important for one to select the appropriate moving company. The Fagioli Group is one such business. In the video below, one of their trucks prepares to move turbines from Maryland to Pennsylvania---a journey that will take it almost a full month to complete:



Big Problem

Unusually large copy jobs require the proper paper materials, as Lucy the clerk soon discovers...



Leaving the Wind Behind

We will be observing machinery throughout this week, moving from computers, to clocks, to the confusing contraptions of  the Rube Goldberg variety.  Today's theme focuses on transportation, so let us take a brief look at the steam-powered ship,  which would eventually supplant the sailing ship as a primary mode of  water travel beginning in the late eighteenth century.  One such vessel, the  Juliana,  would initiate ferry service in New York,  this week in 1811.  That particular boat is not available for examination,  so we shall satisfy our curiosity instead with a later version of  the steamship, a craft in use since the 1890s, the Virginia V, which still provides tourists with service in Puget Sound, Washington:



Driving in Circles

Having recently moved to a rural locale,  Andrew wanted transportation that could handle the unpaved, muddy roads, so naturally he chose an all-terrain vehicle (though not any four-wheel drive would do):

The Jeep Hurricane, a concept vehicle that can turn on a dime, would be a good choice for his country commute. Powered by an 8 cylinder HEMI engine, the four-wheel drive Hurricane can go from 0-60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds.



Rage Against the Machine

Toby is a amiable creature as a general rule, but if there is one thing in this world that sets him off,  it is the irksome whines, buzzes, clicks,  and other sounds associated with the coming new week's topic: machinery.



The Difference of a Few Years

Riding the Rails - Part 4

Trains have evolved a little bit since the days of Stephenson's Rocket. The French TGV electric high-speed train, which first went into service in 1981,  set a record in 2007 when it reached the speed of 357 miles per hour (574.8 km/h):

The record has since been surpassed. The Japanese Shinkansen maglev train reached a speed of 361 mph (581 km/h) in 2003.



Early High Speed Trains

Riding the Rails - Part 3

When the steam-powered  Stephenson's Rocket  initially went into service in England for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway back in 1829,  it was the best locomotive of its day, capable of reaching a top speed of 29 miles per hour (12 mph when fully-loaded).  Designed and built by the Robert Stephenson and Company train manufacturer in Newcastle, the engine, which was fed by twenty-five boiler tubes (most trains of its day had one), would set the standard for future steam locomotives.

The narrator sounds a bit nervous, but he does provide interesting information about the Rocket (even if his estimated speed of 26 mph varies with the one above).



Dreaming of Machines

Jules Verne wrote about a mechanized world he did not live to see, passing away 105 years ago today, at  the onset of  the Machine Age.  The French author is often looked upon as the father of science ficton---his stories were populated with machines and technologies that would later come into existence and common use  (although if his own father had gotten his way, Verne would have ended up as a jurist practicing law rather than becoming the second-most translated author in the world today).

To honor Verne this morning, we'll first take a peek at a 1950s trailer from the film The Fantastic World of Jules Verne:

Verne wrote numerous stories,  including Journey to the Centre of the Earth,  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, and the eerily prescient work, Paris in the Twentieth Century. This second video is an animated tribute to the author:



Primitive Household Automation

Early attempts at marketing devices that  automated simple home tasks often ended in failure because the machines devised to accomplish the desired functions were often rather large and cumbersome:

Actually, the above video highlights a creatively-constructed Rube Goldberg device.



Errors in Engineering

Salt and oil rested in large deposits under the bed of a  10-foot-deep freshwater lake in Louisiana, named Lake Peigneur,  and both resources were being extracted without incident until yesterday in the year 1980, when an oil rig run by the Wilson Brothers Company, for Texaco, began to drill in the wrong location and  poked a hole into the shaft of a salt mine underneath the lake,  causing the water to drain away into the mine,  and creating a large sinkhole that swallowed the oil rig and a number of other structures. The lake did not completely empty, as backfill from the Delcambre Canal replenished the lost water, but Lake Peigneur's content has changed from fresh to brackish saltwater.

Three dogs died in the accident. Gaia was just happy it wasn't of the same magnitude as a Hadron Collider miscalculation...



Fashionable Science

One of the more recent fashionable projects to get noticed on the catwalk of science is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN,  which was powered up for the first time last year on this date. After initial successful tests, problems with two of its superconducting magnets were discovered, and the the LHC had to be shut down to correct the problem. It is scheduled to begin testing again this November.



An Early Fashion Pioneer

Elias Howe was not healthy man (he died at 48) and during his bouts of illness often depended on his wife's skills as a seamstress to bring in income.  It was one during one of these bouts--while he was at home, watching his wife sewing--that Howe came up with the concept of using thread from two different bobbins--one threaded to the needle, which would pass through the cloth creating a loop; the other passing thread through the loop to create a lockstitch.

Howe patented the lockstitch mechanism as part of his version of sewing machine on this date in 1846.  He had little success selling his devices in the United States and went to England hoping to find business there.  Instead, he was swindled out of his patent in that country, and was forced to take out a loan (using his U.S. patent as collateral) to get back home. Upon his return to America, Howe discovered that sewing machines now proliferated, and much to his chagrin, many of them utilized his lockstitch patent without paying royalties. Howe had to go into debt again to sue, and he eventually won his case in 1854, becoming quite wealthy as a result.

The short film below states that lockstitch idea came to Howe in a dream. It's possible--dreaming does have an effect on the pysche--but I don't know if the claim is true or not:


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