Wednesday, June 04, 2008

As Smart as a Horse's Patoot!

If there's one thing I love it's trivia. If there are two things I love, it's trivia and calling someone an ass who sorely deserves it. My friend Jimmy Clothespin (his name has been changed to protect his family) knows this, which is why I received the following missive:

"I don’t usually forward shit like this but I thought you would enjoy.:


Railroad tracks. This is fascinating.

Be sure to read the final paragraph; your understanding of it will
depend on the earlier part of the content.

The US 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 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
th a t'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 .

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. Therefore the United States
standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inc he s is derived from the
original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies
live forever.

So the next time you are handed a Specification/Procedure/Process and
wonder 'What horse's ass came up with it?', you may be exactly right.
Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate
the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horse's asses.) 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 SRB' s. The SRB's are made by Thiokol at
their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRB's would have
preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB's h ad 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 SRB's
had to fit through that tun nel. 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? Ancient horse's asses control almost everything...
and CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling everything else.


It sounds perfect, doesn't it? I checked out my favorite debunking site which calls it "false" -- but goes on to say it's kinda/sorta true in a commonsense sort of way. See the full discussion here. All in all a good read and a fun story. Too fun to keep to myself.

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