Wednesday 3 February 2016

11 A  surveyor and engineer of thirty years published in the Birmingham Weekly Mercury stated, “I am thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of civil engineering. However bigoted some of our professors may be in the theory of surveying according to the prescribed rules, yet it is well known amongst us that such theoretical measurements are INCAPABLE OF ANY PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATION. All our locomotives are designed to run on what may be regarded as TRUE LEVELS or FLATS. There are, of course, partial inclines or gradients here and there, but they are always accurately defined and must be carefully traversed. But anything approaching to eight inches in the mile, increasing as the square of the distance, COULD NOT BE WORKED BY ANY ENGINE THAT WAS EVER YET CONSTRUCTED. Taking one station with another all over England and Scotland, it may be stated that all the platforms are ON THE SAME RELATIVE LEVEL. The distance between Eastern and Western coasts of England may be set down as 300 miles. If the prescribed curvature was indeed as represented, the central stations at Rugby or Warwick ought to be close upon three miles higher than a chord drawn from the two extremities. If such was the case there is not a driver or stoker within the Kingdom that would be found to take charge of the train. We can only laugh at those of your readers who seriously give us credit for such venturesome exploits, as running trains round spherical curves. Horizontal curves on levels are dangerous enough, vertical curves would be a thousand times worse, and with our rolling stock constructed as at present physically impossible.””

This  is just a repetition of  the false claim in point 7, using a weirdly ill-informed historical quote from an evidently incompetent engineer. 

Incompetent, that is, if he thinks a locomotive couldn’t manage an incline of 8 inches in a mile.  He also makes a childish howler by assuming that he can multiply  up the difference between the east and west coats of Britain and add the product to one end. Why does that make the slightest sense?

But in any case, it’s the same foolish inability to understand that moving along,  around the curve of the globe is moving on the level, not climbing. Up and down on the surface of the earth means moving further from the centre of the earth, or closer to it, respectively.

Moreover, this alleged engineer repeats the bizarre mistake of point 10: he confuses a real “hump” in the ground, where the railway would rise up further from the earth’s centre and then fall back towards it, with following the curved surface of the earth while remaining at the same distance from the centre.

And to repeat, when it matters, engineers do take the curvature into account – see the referenced docs in point 7, about Japan’s Proton Accelerator Complex, and a number of other examples. 

There, as in other big scientific projects like CERN large Hadron Collider,  the lines really, really had to be straight, so the engineers did what this video pretends they “never” do -  they took the earth’s curvature into account. 

And guess what; it worked! If the earth had been flat, their calculations would have been wrong, and a hugely expensive installation would have been useless.

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