Something to be thankful for

by free electron on November 27, 2008

I just read the following in an old book.

“The Great Western, which startled the world in 1838 by steaming from Bristol to New York in fifteen days and ten hours, was a ship of 1378 tons, 212 feet long, and had an indicated horsepower of 1260, with a daily consumption of 36 tons of coal.”

36 tons of coal a day. 15 days. 540 tons of coal. About 3,000 miles. That comes to about 360 pounds of coal per mile.

But we got more efficient and faster. Diesel engines, better piston design. From the same book, there are claims that “a half a sheet of note paper will develop sufficient power, when burned in connection with a triple-expansion engine, to carry a ton a mile in an Atlantic steamer.” That’s right, they got from place to place burning things to make steam to move pistons. (Barbaric) Someday, we may become cultured and go from burning things and using the explosions to move pistons to capturing and transferring energy more cleanly, more efficiently.

The same efficiencies will happen with solar, waves, wind, and who knows maybe even cold fusion? And that is what I am thankful for: Science and Technology.

Quotes from “The Development of Modern Europe: The Merging of European in World History” by James Harvey Robinson and Charles A Beard. New York:1930.

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