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Monday, May 21, 2007

what do Two horses Asses and a space ship have in common

4) The US standard railroad gauge (distance between
the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an xceedingly
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 army
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 ARSE wasn't
important!

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