Tag Archives: history

Six-man pile driver

This has been going around for a while, but I think it’s a clever use of combined manpower. The video was apparently shot in Pakistan, though some commenters suggest the workers may be Thai – I don’t recognize the script on the header. Here’s a comment that was forwarded to me with the video link:

Now, let’s analyze the Engineering here:

6 men x 180 lbs = 1080 lbs static force. Jumping up and down will create a 3 times dynamic effect = 3240 lbs/jump = 1.6 ton thumps if the pile is tapered to 2 in x 2 in, cross section at the tip = 4 sq. in. So, dynamic pressure/thump at pile tip = 3240/4 = 800 psi.

“Add a man” feature will increase to 950 psi, so buy the option!

Increase the chant and dynamic force goes up to 5 times to bring max. pressure / thump to 1600 psi for a 7 man team.

Quite good, and will penetrate hard clay and sandy soil (but not hard or rocky ground!) Pretty ingenious.

Oh, the foreman is the guy on the tambourine.

This reminds me of the “gandy dancers” of American railroads, who, in the days before track-straightening machines, used songs or chants to coordinate the mens’ efforts:

1910 car phone

From Scientific American, September 3, 1910, p. 185

The mobile phone is older than you think… or at least the desire for it. The device shown above isn’t a true mobile phone, of course, but it shows a way to combine two relatively new technologies — the automobile and the telephone.

“[A]utomobilists who get into trouble or meet with an accident can have telephone connection from any point in the rural districts where there are overhead telephone wires, within two minutes, without leaving the car. The device is also useful to officers in pursuit of criminals. It is composed of a hand microphone and core. The cord and attachments are lifted to the wires above by means of a jointed aluminum rod, which is packed away in small compass when not in use. The clip with which the connection is made consists of two strips of metal riveted together at the bottom and formed with slots about the size of an ordinary wire. These strips open slightly at the top for the purpose of receiving the telephone wire. When pressed upward by the aluminum rod with the telephone cord attached, the wire drops into the slot and the metal clip closes on it…” A sharp jerk forward or backward would detach the wire when the call was complete.

This is the first I’ve heard of such a device… apparently it didn’t catch on, or wasn’t allowed. I know little about early telephones, but I assume that once the connection was live you’d be connected to “central” and could then ask the operator to connect you to your party.

One advantage over today’s technology: you could drive or you could use the phone, but not at the same time!

From Scientific American, September 3, 1910, p. 185. Elsewhere on the same page:

lawn mowerA motorized, self-propelled lawn mower! Readers of Scientific American must’ve thought they were living in pretty fast times, and that electric wires and internal-combustion engines were going to change their world into something barely recognizable. If so, they were right.

The strange origins of the electric chair

"Nebraska's electric chair." (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nebraska%27s_electric_chair.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Nebraska%27s_electric_chair.JPG

“Nebraska’s electric chair.” (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nebraska%27s_electric_chair.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Nebraska%27s_electric_chair.JPG

One thing I love about the study of history is its little weird surprises — such as finding out that a certain notorious invention came with a hidden agenda that had little to do with the death penalty, and a whole lot to do with Thomas Edison’s desire to protect his market share against a superior technology.

First used in 1890, the electric chair is part of a longer humanitarian trend away from acceptance of capital punishment. For much of human history, executions were usually a public spectacle, were widely employed for a wide range of offenses, and were often designed to inflict the greatest possible suffering on the condemned person. Devices like the gallows or the guillotine were actually humanitarian developments because they offered a relatively quick death. And the electric chair was promoted as just such a device — a modern, scientific update for a traditional practice that might otherwise look like a barbaric holdover from more primitive times.

But that isn’t really what the electric chair was about, at least as far as America’s most famous inventor was concerned. Continue reading

The ice men come to Walden Pond (Walden 186)

Harvesting on Lake St Clair, Michigan - circa 1905. Wikimedia Commons

Harvesting on Lake St Clair, Michigan – circa 1905. Wikimedia Commons

“To speak literally, a hundred Irishmen, with Yankee overseers, came from Cambridge every day to get out the ice. They divided it into cakes by methods too well known to require description…” — Henry David Thoreau, from “The Pond in Winter,” Walden

Today, of course, it does require description. The ice trade was a big deal in New England prior to the advent of refrigeration. Simply put, the region had bitterly cold winters and lots of lakes. Ice was cut in blocks and hauled to ice houses where they were stacked and insulated (often by being covered in sawdust), and then sold throughout the warm weather months.

Thoreau continues his description (paragraph breaks added): Continue reading

Snow at Walden (Walden 168)

2011-12 006s

OK, this isn’t snow at Walden as the headline says. It’s snow on a branch just outside my window in Nebraska. Thoreau would probably point out that you can see buds ready to open come spring. That’s one way he got through the long Massachusetts winters… by looking closely for any sign of the coming spring.

“At this season I seldom had a visitor. When the snow lay deepest no wanderer ventured near my house for a week or fortnight at a time, but there I lived as snug as a meadow mouse, or as cattle and poultry which are said to have survived for a long time buried in drifts, even without food; or like that early settler’s family in the town of Sutton, in this State, whose cottage was completely covered by the great snow of 1717 when he was absent, and an Indian found it only by the hole which the chimney’s breath made in the drift, and so relieved the family.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors,” Walden Continue reading

Is your garden a cemetery? (Walden 167)

“I am not aware that any man has ever built on the spot which I occupy. Deliver me from a city built on the site of a more ancient city, whose materials are ruins, whose gardens cemeteries. The soil is blanched and accursed there, and before that becomes necessary the earth itself will be destroyed.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors,” Walden

I have to disagree with Thoreau here. He doesn’t think anyone has built on his spot before, but in at least 13,000 years of human habitation of North America (and maybe a good deal more), is it likely that he was the first? Continue reading

Thoreau on virtue, law and order (Walden 122)

Thoreau is talking about law and order — how he was arrested for refusing to pay his poll tax (in protest of the Mexican War and of the federal government’s support of slavery), and how he habitually left his cabin unlocked and felt that if everyone lived as simply as he did, theft would be unknown. Maybe so: he had little to steal. He ends “The Village” chapter with a quote from Confucius:

“You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ punishments? Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends.” Continue reading