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Humor: The engineering mind set
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- Subject: Humor: The engineering mind set
- From: email@example.com (Jon D Dayley)
- Date: Tue, 19 Aug 1997 23:59:25 -0700
- References: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is a pretty good one. For the engineering type OR someone who
really likes lighting charcoal.
>Apparently when it comes to stuff like this, Women's reactions are
"Why?", and men's reactions are "Cool!"
>LIGHTING CHARCOAL GRILLS or WHY ENGINEERS ARE THE WAY THEY ARE...
> Our subject today is lighting charcoal grills. One of our favorite
charcoal grill lighters is a guy named George Goble (really!!), a
computer person in the Purdue University engineering department. Each
year, Goble and a bunch of other engineers hold a picnic in West
>Indiana, at which they cook hamburgers on a big grill. Being engineers,
they began looking for practical ways to speed up the charcoal-lighting
>"We started by blowing the charcoal with a hair dryer," Goble told me in
a telephone interview. "Then we figured out that it would light faster
if we used a vacuum cleaner." If you know anything about (1) engineers
and (2) guys in general, you know what happened:
>The purpose of the charcoal-lighting shifted from cooking hamburgers to
seeing how fast they could light the charcoal. From the vacuum cleaner,
they escalated to using a propane torch, then an acetylene torch. Then
Goble started using compressed pure oxygen, which caused the charcoal to
burn much faster, because as you recall from chemistry class, fire is
essentially the rapid combination of oxygen with a reducing agent (the
charcoal). We discovered that a long time ago, somewhere in the valley
between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (or something along those lines).
>By this point, Goble was getting pretty good times. But in the world of
competitive charcoal-lighting, "pretty good" does not cut the mustard.
Thus, Goble hit upon the idea of using - get ready - liquid oxygen. This
is the form of oxygen used in rocket engines; it's 295 degrees below zero
and 600 times as dense as regular oxygen. In terms of releasing energy,
>pouring liquid oxygen on charcoal is the equivalent of throwing a live
squirrel into a room containing 50 million Labrador retrievers.
>On Gobel's Web page (the address is http://ghg.ecn.purdue.edu/), you can
see actual photographs and a video of Goble using a bucket attached to a
10-foot-long wooden handle to dump 3 gallons of liquid oxygen (not sold
in stores) onto a grill containing 60 pounds of charcoal and a lit
cigarette for ignition. What follows is the most impressive
charcoal-lighting I have ever seen, featuring a large fireball that,
according to Goble, reached 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The charcoal was
ready for cooking in - this has to be a world record - 3 seconds. There's
also a photo of what happened when Goble used the same technique on a
>discount-store grill. All that's left is a circle of charcoal with a few
shreds of metal in it. "Basically, the grill vaporized," said Goble. "We
were thinking of returning it to the store for a refund."
>Looking at Goble's video and photos, I became, as an American, all
choked up with gratitude at the fact that I do not live anywhere near the
engineers' picnic site. But also, I was proud of my country for
producing guys who can be ready to barbecue in less time than it takes
for guys in less-advanced nations, such as France, to spit. Will the
3-second barrier ever be broken? Will engineers come up with a new, more
powerful charcoal-lighting technology? It's something for all of us to
ponder this summer as we sit outside, chewing our hamburgers, every now
>then glancing in the direction of West Lafayette, Indiana, looking for
a mushroom cloud.
>Engineers are like that.