A Parallel To Y2k From History

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I recently read a little story that has a parallel to Y2k history.


Here is a look into the corporate mind that is very interesting, educational, historical and completely true!

The Canada and 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 the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

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? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads? The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels, were first formed by Roman war chariots.

Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

Specifications 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. Thus, we have the answer to the original question.

Now the twist to the story..............There's an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and horses' behinds. When we 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 might 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 had 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 is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, the major 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 Behind!

Think about it !

-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), November 01, 1999


Somehow, it all makes sense now, doesn't it?

-- I'm Here, I'm There (I'm Everywhere@so.beware), November 01, 1999.

That's pretty funny. I'd read the first part before but not about the rocket boosters. Ha ha ha!

Beginnings are very important. They determine the direction and path of any endeavor. Every seed is the prophecy of is own future.

-- ..- (dit@dot.dash), November 01, 1999.

So how easy will it be to buck the 00 all-pervading design flaw at the very root and heart of civilization?

Can't be done fast.

3-day storm? 3-year storm? Don't be so optimistic. It weakens your chance for survival.

-- Horse's Ass (assess@end.00), November 01, 1999.

the more things change the more they stay the same

-- back to road ruts (in@2.months), November 01, 1999.

Great anecdote at least we still have a multiplicity of horse's asses

-- Wake up call (armor@war.com), November 01, 1999.

I showed this to my "living in sin" friend -- got a chuckle -- and she said that the final irony is that the dimension is probably no longer applicable, anyway, as the horses and horses' behinds are probably bigger nowadays.

-- A (A@AisA.com), November 01, 1999.

At least we have the same RR gauge throughout North America. (except for BART in SF at 66", and 36" narrow gauge for many mining operations.)

This list of gauges used worldwide runs from 15" to 66" -- 15" to 63" in the UK alone. http://pave l.physics.sunysb.edu/RR/misc/gauges.html

Still -- point taken. We are conditioned in many ways by what's gone before.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), November 01, 1999.

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