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165205.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 7:23 am Reply with quote

Cleaning the Great Court of the British Museum is a tricky job. The specialist cleaners use a MEWP - a mobile elevated work platform - which is a “little crane on a track”. However, the marble floor of the Great Court can only take about 1 tonne per 2 square meters; in order to lift cleaners up to the ceiling, the MEWP would have to be too heavy for the floor. They can only get three-quarters of the way up.

The solution is abseiling cleaners. “They climb up the sides, latch themselves on to something, run ropes across and then swing around all day long.”

The glass roof also poses problems. It’s made of 3312 panes of glass, each of a unique shape. Only skinny cleaners need apply; you can’t walk directly on the roof, so you have to be hooked on by a harness to a network of cables, which are invisible from below.

They regularly use a hawk (called Emu, rather puzzlingly) to scare off birds - but the big problem is seagulls, who aren't scared off sufficiently. Not only do they shit on the roof, and build nests - they also die up there. It’s theorised that the poor gulls mistake the curved , blue-green glass roof for the sea, and the distant figures of school parties trundling around below for shoals of fish, dive in - and break their necks.

S: ‘The Museum’ by Rupert Smith (BBC Books, 2007).

Link to Victorian gulls at
post 158727

165420.  Thu Apr 12, 2007 2:28 pm Reply with quote

I liked post 165412 on the outer forums.

165626.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 6:36 am Reply with quote

The fastest train in US history was down to an experiment which involved strapping jet-engines on trains. It was in 1966 and the train reached 183.85mph, I'm pretty sure that was a world record at the time.

Read about the hair-braned scheme here

and here's a pic of a rocket-train:

165670.  Fri Apr 13, 2007 8:00 am Reply with quote

Modern day rocket 'sleds' run on tracks as well, and the record is over 6,000mph. They're used for testing the balistic properties of the rockets themselves, so not too many passenger tickets are sold.

Although some are used to test ejection seats.

165989.  Sat Apr 14, 2007 6:58 am Reply with quote

Details about this competition inspired by cartoonist Rube Goldberg, in which "college students nationwide compete to design a machine that uses the most complex process to complete a simple task," such as screwing in a light bulb, in 20 or more steps. Provides a FAQ, results of past competitions (back to 1999), photos of some of the machines, and background about Rube Goldberg and the contest. From Purdue University.

166027.  Sat Apr 14, 2007 8:57 am Reply with quote

The artist Chris Burden specialises in making complex machines that create something for you 'live'. His most famous one, which I once saw at Tate Britain, was a long, slim perspex production line filled with bits of intricate machinery:
The Two Minute Airplane Factory consists of a factory-like assembly line which manufactures rubber-band-powered model aeroplanes from tissue paper, plastic and balsa wood.
The manufacturing process culminates in the launch of the planes, which fly up and circle round before descending to land on the gallery floor.

Here's a rather surruptitious photo of it:

And here's the product:

166062.  Sat Apr 14, 2007 10:18 am Reply with quote

post 165598 adds to the stuff about military engineering - I thought it was interesting.

166524.  Mon Apr 16, 2007 7:54 am Reply with quote

Amazing pictures from the construction of the world’s highest bridge - higher than the Eiffel Tower:

166600.  Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:53 am Reply with quote

If the Best of Top Gear they showed on BBC2 last night is to be believed, that bridge is even taller than Canary Wharf.

edit: ignore me. I just realised the Eiffel tower is bigger than canary dwarf :)

166880.  Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:47 am Reply with quote

Vaseline was discovered on the oil rigs.

In 1859, an English-born American chemist, Robert Augustus Chesebrough, was visiting oil rigs in Pennsylvania, where he noticed that workers used a sticky petroleum by-product - gunk which accumulated around the drill rods - to heal cuts and burns.

He spent almost a decade perfecting a process to distil from the gunk a colourless, odourless gel, which he named petroleum jelly.

He registered Vaseline as a trademark in 1872. No-one’s sure where the name came from; perhaps the German for water (wasser) with the Greek for oil (elaion); or perhaps Chesebrough named it after one of the vases which he used to store his gel while he was researching it.

He couldn't get bulk buyers interested, so he went on the road, selling one-ounce jars of “wonder jelly” across New York state from a horse and cart. To demonstrate its power, he would burn patches of his skin. Before long, he was selling a jar a minute.

For all his cleverness at developing wonder jelly, he doesn't seem to have understood it that well. He was convinced that Vaseline contained some kind of unique and unknown active ingredient; it’s now known that there isn't any such thing. Vaseline promotes rapid healing of skin merely because it creates good conditions for natural healing processes to occur. It creates a barrier on the surface of the skin, keeping moisture in and bacteria out. (However, medics are still enthusiastic about Vaseline; it is so bland that it can be used without restraint, and it has a seemingly endless list of medical uses).

Chesebrough would never have believed such debunking. When he was diagnosed with pleurisy he had himself coated head to foot in Vaseline, so that the “secret ingredient” would cure him. He did indeed get better, and lived to be 96 - which he attributed to the spoonful of Vaseline he ate every day.

S: Daily Telegraph 16 Apr 07.

167042.  Tue Apr 17, 2007 3:50 pm Reply with quote

Very good. He sounds like a character from PG Wodehouse - Gussie Chesebrough nnd his wonderful Patent Fix-u-Uppo.

167263.  Wed Apr 18, 2007 7:40 am Reply with quote

Bridge in Indonesia may collapse due to urine.

"The office has not yet done thorough tests on the slant of the bridge, but we are concerned that one of its main support piers has been weakened by urine, as it is a popular spot for locals to relieve themselves,"

Another problem that was pointed out was that people had stolen pieces of the bridge.


Molly Cule
170077.  Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:57 am Reply with quote

Raleigh called pineapples the princess of fruits. In the Caribbean they were put in doorways to welcome visitors, this translated into stone statues in entrances to grand houses in England.
s - British museum exhibition

170117.  Fri Apr 27, 2007 7:58 am Reply with quote

And, of course, there's always someone who has to take it a bit too far

170121.  Fri Apr 27, 2007 8:22 am Reply with quote

Bloody hell, that's some chimney.

There's one on the Wimbers trophy too:


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