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Thread: Feats of Engineering

  1. #1
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    Feats of Engineering

    What is humanity's most impressive feat of engineering?

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    For mass production: a multiblade razor, any modern car, a self winding watch. OK some electronic stuff
    For a single project:CERN, the Cassini satellite, a pick of high tech buildings,
    for solving problems: The water closet, air conditioning, solar panels.
    But that's just for starters.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Feet of engineering?

    Boston Dynamics robots

    (sorry, I couldn't resist)
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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    The Onager. Vastly more complicated than the trebuchet, yet at least one thousand years older.

    Hey, you already knew what sort of thing was going to impress ME, didn't you?
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Oh so that's what t's called? I remember seeing a demo on TV using a bunch of steel rods as the torsion spring and they hurled a piano a fair way.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    I am truly sorry but I have to go with the spork and the zipper.

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    I don't know what a spork is but I used to use the zipper in design lectures. Anybody would be proud to think of the idea of the zipper in a buttoned up world but Gideon Sundback did not just do that, he made a machine to make zippers. Production engineering machines and processes often exhibit the maximum creativity IMO and put so called creatives who paint pictures to shame.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I don't know what a spork is but I used to use the zipper in design lectures. Anybody would be proud to think of the idea of the zipper in a buttoned up world but Gideon Sundback did not just do that, he made a machine to make zippers. Production engineering machines and processes often exhibit the maximum creativity IMO and put so called creatives who paint pictures to shame.
    I gotta agree; the Rube Goldbergesque fabrication and manufacturing processes I've seen some tv shows just blows me away. I can't conceive of how minds think that can design these.

    I realize most if not all these manufacturing designs didn't appear full-blown in somebody's mind, but started out simply and then re-hashed and tweaked until SHAZAM! you end up with a super sci-fi automated factory. So yeah, I agree that most engineers could spatter paint on a large canvas whilst nekkid and drinking vodka, but how many "artists" could design a cost effective manufacturing process? (preferably clothed)

    Edit: a spork is a spoon with tines like a fork...spork!
    Last edited by Hypmotoad; 2017-May-19 at 05:17 PM. Reason: clarity:

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    Quote Originally Posted by cjackson View Post
    What is humanity's most impressive feat of engineering?
    The problem I always have with these kinds of questions, is what the heck does "impressive" mean.

    Most useful? Clever? Complicated? Difficult to design? Wowish?

    And what about time frames? Impressive in 27 BC is not impressive in 2017.

    Is the engineering in the design or in the execution?

    A lot of people in real design and engineering work will tell you is what is impressive is giving the customer what they want, for a reasonable price, on time, and with a design and function that makes whatever they are doing a better or easier task.

    A doorknob or a tea kettle might not be as "impressive" as the Taj Mahal, but if you make thousands of them cheaply and they work well, that is probably more "impressive".
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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    I'm rather surprised it hasn't been mentioned but my vote goes to the U.S. space programs leading to the Moon landings. Considering the state of technology at the time, the technology they developed, the scope of work, and the time frame, I consider it truly amazing.

    On a more personal scale, since I'm a woodworker, I like the example of edged tools like knives, chisels, and hand planes. As simple as the concept is, the knife is amazingly adaptable in design and application, each numbering in the thousands. They can be both utilitarian and objet d'art. Chisels...I find few things more satisfying to use than a well made, finely honed chisel...except maybe a hand plane, which is really just a big chisel in a convenient holder. I'm awed by what Japanese master craftsman accomplish (video, 1:19) with elegantly simple wooden planes. For me though, the culmination rests in the Stanley-patterned offerings of Veritas and Lie-Nielsen.

    I'm also a fan of the straight razor. As impressive as the engineering and manufacture of multi-blade razors may be, they are an abomination and must be destroyed.
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    Man is a tool-using animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

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    Let's see : super refined spring steel ( first chronometer for marine navigation ) , the compass , ceramics , glass ( how about that microscope and the telescope my friends ) , steam , stellite, carbide, ...how about concrete , how about creosote ? ( They used to have to re-build railroad trestles every 5 years or so for rot ...and then creosote , how about the miniature water/air turbine dentist's drill ?
    How about portland cement, bricks, laminated structural timber, epoxy , vacuum tubes , the magnetron ( radar...all types ) ,
    how about the Ship's inertial navigation system ? The bicycle? The tire? the pneumatic tire ?
    The list is as long as a telephone pole. And all because someone said to themselves...." there must be a better way " .

    Dan

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    I have mentioned this before and it got no traction then but:
    one of the hardest projects I ever worked on was the railway brake adjuster. This device takes up and pays out slack in a tie rod that applies the brakes on a train. The brake itself needs a controlled gap to work properly and heat and wear change the gap. The device has no power input and operates in a truly harsh environment. The originator is unknown, probably an unsung railway engineer in the 19th C. It took a long time to really understand how it worked with screws and springs and clutches and even longer to try to improve it for modern trains. Almost no-one even knows it exists, but it's still an essential element of transport design.

    By comparison Ford's epicyclic model T gearbox, somewhat similar in some ways is a cinch but still a marvel of invention.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Second to aircraft carriers, the Space Shuttle was most likely the most complex beastie ever made

    Some favorites:
    http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/8...-zero-purpose/
    http://www.funnyjunk.com/Top+7+most+...tures/5437224/
    https://www.automationworld.com/help...-manufacturing

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    The highest engineering achievement for the present moment is rocket-robots- the technological basis for exploring all corners of the universe (not only) - only a good organization and money is missing. If all money from an international weapon race would spend on astronautics we would have now our colonies not only on the Moon or Mars, but also on some Jupiter or Saturn moons.

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    The first ones that come to my mind:

    1. Printing presses as they emerged during the decades following the Civil War. The ones on display at the Smithsonian museums just blew my mind.

    2. Big ships, as working pieces of machinery.

    I find these every bit as impressive as the electronic technology that has emerged during the past few decades.

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    These.

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    For me, the greatest invention in history is the Gutenburg press.
    Essentially bootstrapped global civilization.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    For me, the greatest invention in history is the Gutenburg press.
    Essentially bootstrapped global civilization.
    You are absolutely right - the Gutenberg press. That today unsuited for the fact that it replaced hand-slow small productions (books) with mass automated production, and what should have been more advanced use in current development and production of ... solar panels, rockets ... for further much faster acceleration of exploration of space and ... our bodies.

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    Moonnow,

    Your latest two posts in this thread violate our rules in regard to political content and off-topic posting in promotion of your agenda, which you were previous warned to stop. Please drop it. Now.
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    Man is a tool-using animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

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    International Space Station

    The Internet

    The Three Gorges Dam

    United States' Interstate Highway System

    Thermonuclear bombs - they shouldn't exist as weapons, but their sheer power is incredible. Hopefully we'll use them for huge Orion drives someday, when we've outgrown our psychotic childhood.
    Last edited by SkepticJ; 2017-May-19 at 09:44 PM.
    Calm down, have some dip. - George Carlin

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    Food preservation technology. I can eat food from all over the world every day.

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    The LHC.

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