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General Ignorance

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23690.  Mon Sep 05, 2005 6:44 am Reply with quote

Hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty of starting this thread. An idea came to me, and I thought I’d post the germ here for future reference.

Question: Which British company was the largest car manufacturer in 1962?

Answer: Matchbox:

For several decades after World War II, Leslie Smith and fellow UK Navy vet Rodney Smith (no relation) were the world's largest producers of cars.

By 1962 they were turning out 50 million cars a year under the name Lesney's Matchbox, more than all of the world's major automobile producers combined.

More in these links:

23692.  Mon Sep 05, 2005 6:50 am Reply with quote

Funnily enough, I was going to start a thread on Dinky Toys...

23749.  Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:29 am Reply with quote


That post could well be better suited to opening a Dinky style-question than as a piece of GI.

However something which surprised me the other day was reading that water is a very bad conductor of electricity, it is in fact the minerals which are often dissolved in it which gives the liquid its electrical properties.

IIf this hasn't been mentioned before, anyone think of an appropiate question?

23773.  Tue Sep 06, 2005 8:42 am Reply with quote

Not off-hand, but I wondered whether it might be interesting to do something on why castaways shouldn't drink sea water, and that would fit well as a note to the question you suggest.

24550.  Thu Sep 22, 2005 5:37 am Reply with quote

Q: What shape are rain drops?

Forfeit: tear-shaped, pear-shaped, pointy

A: Spherical. Apparently the tear-shaped thing is a cartoonist's convention, designed to express movement.

s: Radio 4 programme on "The Sphere", Wed 21/9/05

Ball-bearing and lead shot makers use the spherical shape of droplets in their manufacturing process. Molten lead is dropped through a sieve from a great height into a cooling liquid, and comes out spherical. Shot-drop towers used to be built for the purpose - eg the one that stood next to Waterloo Bridge until the Festival of Britain. Pictures of British ones at,8543,-10604514616,00.html and and an American one which was at one time the tallest building in America at

Ball bearings which need to be made to a very precise tolerance are manufactured in the space station, I think, because of the zero gravity. Haven't researched this bit yet, though.

The above from a conversation with Gray - whose uncle was in the ball bearing business and says that the post-drop grind is the loudest industrial process there is.

24551.  Thu Sep 22, 2005 6:42 am Reply with quote

I'd be really surprised if anyone could afford to make ball-bearings on the shuttle. I'll ask uncy nige - I'm sure he'd love to talk tiny balls for a while.

24554.  Thu Sep 22, 2005 10:03 am Reply with quote

Found one reference to it, at least:
The first crew of astronauts and cosmonauts started living on the ISS in October 2000. The crews do experiments to learn how people and other creatures are affected by living in space. They also learn how to make things in space, like larger crystals or rounder ball bearings.

24555.  Thu Sep 22, 2005 10:06 am Reply with quote

On the other hand:
Crouch and other space scientists also are treading carefully. They cringe when recalling NASA's claims in the 1980s and early 1990s that the space station would result in a cure for cancer or the production of perfect ball bearings.

"Frankly, that wasn't the truth," Crouch says.

Just as important in President Bush’s speech were his omissions. He made no mention of industry in space—of the possibility of rounder ball bearings or purer semiconductors. He made no reference to space travel so cheap that it becomes commonplace. Those ancient and hopeless goals, used in the original justification of the shuttle program, were abandoned, and for that I am thankful. They were never realistic, never made economic sense, and they interfered with legitimate science and exploration programs.

The shuttle is already on its way out and the space station has been pointless from the start. Notwithstanding a lot of talk about making perfectly spherical ball-bearings in zero gravity aboard the station or "learning to live and work in space" by being there, the station has never done much except give the shuttle somewhere to go.

24558.  Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:17 am Reply with quote

Heh. "That 4th floor is useless - it's just somewhere else for the lift to go."

27985.  Sun Oct 23, 2005 5:23 pm Reply with quote

With reference to raindrops, the TV show Mythbusters tested the assumption that it's better to run than to walk in the rain, and supposedly concluded that the faster you run the wetter you get. That's all the details I have. Does anyone have any idea what they're on about?

On edit - scratch this; it was re-tested and found to be false.

Last edited by Flash on Sun Oct 23, 2005 6:12 pm; edited 1 time in total

27987.  Sun Oct 23, 2005 5:26 pm Reply with quote

Another drop-related topic: the same show also tested whether it is possible to electrocute yourself by urinating on the third rail of a railway track or on an electric fence, and concluded that you can't on the track but you can on the fence. Again, no further details.

54057.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:18 pm Reply with quote

There's an experiment which has been running since 1927 in Brisbane to record the rate at which pitch drips - about one drop every eight years in this set-up:
In the foyer of the Department of Physics at the University of Queensland in Brisbane is an experiment to illustrate, for teaching purposes, the fluidity and the very high viscosity of pitch, set up in 1927 by Professor Thomas Parnell, the first Professor of Physics there.

The pitch was warmed and poured into a glass funnel, with the bottom of the steam sealed. Three years were allowed for the pitch to consolidate, and in 1930 the sealed stem was cut. From that date the pitch has been allowed to flow out of the funnel and a record kept of the dates when drops fell. The observations which appear in the illustration are brought up to date in table 1. The pitch in its funnel is not kept under any special conditions, so its rate of flow varies with normal, seasonal changes in temperature.

There have been eight such events since the experiment started.

109057.  Mon Oct 30, 2006 7:08 am Reply with quote

What shape is a raindrop? You might imagine it is a classic teardrop shape, but this is a myth, probably because when a raindrop hits a surface it rolls off like a tear, with a round front and a pointed tail. In fact, according to the quiz programme, QI, shown on BBC Two last Friday, raindrops are completely spherical. But this is only part of the story -raindrop shapes are much more interesting. Raindrops are spherical as they begin to fall, and small drops under 2mm (0.08in) keep this shape. But larger raindrops become distorted into a hamburger shape -flattened at the base and rounded at the top. This is because a falling raindrop has to push through the atmosphere, which creates aerodynamic resistance, known as drag. As the raindrop pushes against the air, its bottom becomes squashed and the largest drops are distorted even more into a sagging dumb-bell shape, eventually tearing themselves apart into smaller drops. Interestingly, if the atmosphere did not exist, raindrops would hit the ground at frightening velocities. A 2mm diameter raindrop falling from 500 metres (1,650ft) without any air would smash into the ground at nearly 100m/second, or 360kmh (224mph), which would make a horrendous impact and make rain showers highly dangerous. But the drag of the atmosphere slows its descent to a much safer 6.5m/second.

Paul Simons, The Times, 24 October 2006

227386.  Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:31 pm Reply with quote

The rain drop has the shape of a pill I have seen in a california drug rehab center. I mean that they are not spherical shape, but they are thinker in the site towards the earth and thinner on the other end.

<Edited by Jenny to remove link that appears to have been put there for commercial purposes>


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