Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why is there 120 volts and 220 volts....and 12 different types of plugs

So, thankfully for most of travellers, electronics manufacturers have made our electronics comparable with 220 volt and 120 volt systems.  However, it does beg the question on why is there so many different electrical standards and plugs.

Well, it seems that it is partly because of the fact that the USA, specifically Thomas Edison, first discovered electricity and how to use it.  However, in doing so, there was the inevitable learning from his mistakes.  So, by the time he had made the AC 120 volt system, with the three prong plug North Americans were used to, Nikola Tesla was already seeing the challenges in their implementation.  In the USA implementation of electricity, you needed large cables because of the amount of energy loss in the cables.  However, by going with a higher voltage, between 220 and 250 volts, you could get more power with a smaller cable.  So, as a result of that, Europe adopted a different voltage than North America.

Now, when it comes to the plugs, that is an entirely different story. Basically, each country had different power companies that wanted to make things as easy as they could for themselves.  As a result of this, they were each designing plugs that they thought were superior to another countries.  Of course, back then, modern jet flights where you transverse continents were still 30 years away at the earliest.  So compatibility of the plugs didn't matter!

There has been talk, through organizations that discuss electricity worldwide about adopting one standard, but because every country has invested so much in their system, the likelihood of standardization will likely always rely on an adapter.  At least that's a standard requirement for travel now!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Something so sweet can be really painful

Have you ever thought about the work that goes into harvesting sugar?  Well, to harvest sugar, you first have to wait for the sugar cane to be about two to four metres high.  This takes about 12 to 16 months.

From there, the sugar cane is removed of it's leafy top (There is no sugar in it).  The rest of the sugar cane, also known as cane stalks, is then cut into small lengths called 'billets'.

Now, this next step used to be really painful.  That's because of the manual labour involved in harvesting sugar.  The sugar cane stalks are very tough to cut, as a result, many accidents happen.  Furthermore, the cane itself is very rough on the hands when handled.

Even with the above, there is another danger of sugar - fire.  Before sugar canes can be harvested, the whole crop is lit on fire so kill any insects, snakes, weeds, etc.  The fire itself doens't harm the sugar cane.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cleaning a Chair with our hands at caf├ęs

Have you ever though of the confused human logic we have when sitting at a cafe with a dirty seat?  Many of us will use our hands to move the rubbish, which often is a little bit of water, off of the seat before sitting down to eat. However, we then use our hands to eat with right after. It is baffling in the human brain that we are more worried about our bum being dirty (despite the fact we are wearing pants) than if our hands are dirty when we eat. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Britain Drives on the "Wrong Side"

Have you ever thought about the reason why Britain drives on the "wrong" side of the road but no one else does?

Well, it seems that all of the world used to drive on the "wrong" side of the road until the late 1800s.  In fact, the Pope even said that we should all drive on the wrong side of the road.

However, in the 1800's, horse and carriages were gaining popularity.  As a result of this, as the carriages got larger, the driver would sit to the left of the "left horse" so that he could lash the team of horses.  As a result of this, most people started to "drive" on the left side of their vehicle, and thus wanted to keep to the right side of the road so they could see other carriages passing on the left.  Now, in Britain, they never used the bigger carriages so they stayed driving on the same "wrong" side as they always had.

And that is how and why Britain drives on the "wrong" side.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wanting Clean Environments but Dirty Devices

Have you ever thought about how focused we are on ensuring that we live in a clean environment.  We use anti-bacterial soap and clothes to keep ourselves and surfaces clean.  We wash our clothes after one use.  We want our plates spotless.  We do all this for everything except our electronics.  We have no problem using an iPhone, television remote or iPad that hasn't been cleaned in weeks.  In fact, we don't even think about doing it.  Why are our electronics spared from us wanting clean environments?  Is it because they are plastic and glass?  Who knows?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Drive Thrus

Have you ever stopped to think about the drive thru experience at your local fast food restaurant?  Many of them are changing the configurations of the drive thrus so that there are two order boards (where you order), but still only one cashier window and one food window.  

Given this configuration it seems the biggest time suck in the process is you ordering. It actually takes longer (since they need two of them) then it does for you to pay them and, perhaps even more concerning, for them to make your food. It would seem there is nothing fresh about this food if they can cook and prepare it so fast. Had you ever thought about that?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Out of State License Plates in Hawaii

Have you ever visited Hawaii?  Have you ever thought about how vehicles with out of state license plates got there?  Given there is no road from mainland USA to Hawaii it seems very odd to me to see out of state license plates there. F

First how did the people get their car there and why?  Second, if you did bring it by ferry, for example, that seems like a large commitment you are staying in Hawaii. So shouldn't you just have to get insurance and plates there?

It just seems so odd to see and doesn't really make sense why you would do it. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pressing Harder When Low Batteries on Remote

In our new wired world, have you ever thought about the irony that when batteries are running low in a device, like a TV remote, our solution is to push harder.  Somehow, we believe, pushing the buttons harder will get that last ounce of juice out of the batteries.  When you step back it makes no sense since the remotes, and almost all electronic devices work off microchips.  They don't care or even detect how hard you are pressing the buttons.  You could press them a bit or a lot and to the device the outcome is the same.  However, as humans, we believe the harder we push the more success we have.  While in many ways we are the smartest species we do have some dumb moments.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Free Ketchup.....but pay for other condiments

Have you ever thought about how weird it is when you order fast food and they offer you free ketchup but nothing else.  Actually, they will give you as many packets of ketchup as you want.  However, if you ask for a Sweet & Sour sauce, or any other sauce like that, some fast food restaurants will tell you there is a charge for that.

Now I can understand charging in principle, but when you take a step back it is odd you can have as much ketchup as you want, but nothing else.  What if you would rather have some other sauce but no other ketchup.  They would still charge you.  Some people could easily use as much ketchup, in terms of cost to the restaurant, as the other sauces that they are trying to save (costs) by charging you for them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Railroad Tracks

The U.S. 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 U.S. 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. In other words, bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification, procedure, or 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.

Now, the twist to the story:

When you saw a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, you will notice that 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 larger, 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!

Now you know, Horses' Asses control almost everything. That explains a whole lot of stuff, doesn't it?