Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amba Schooled Me (again)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859)
While on the topic, the man who built the SS Great Eastern (and the Great Western before her) was Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  There he is, pictured above, in a photo which might have stoked the rage and scorn of Dickensian socialists. Yet today, Brunel ranks highly in polls of "Greatest Britons."

I put this here to celebrate another wealth maker and also to note how Brunel exploited something which Amba schooled me on a few months ago: Surface area to volume ratio.  As a shipbuilder, Brunel understood that the carrying capacity of a ship increases by volume, while the water resistance (friction) only increases with the submerged area of its dimensions. This meant that large ships were intrinsically more fuel efficient, which was very important for long voyages across the Atlantic.


  1. Silly Pollo! Brits love their capitalist class. You didn't think that their preserved affections for such anachronisms as royal glitz and unelected houses of parliament went unaccompanied by other hidebound social habits, did you?

    Oh well, at least we've progressed to appreciating wealth built by technological innovation, rather than appreciating wealth built by conquest, which was the case among the ancient empires that inspired our own country. Hopefully our understanding of economics is more advanced than theirs was, as well.

    Thanks for the post. However much wealth this guy accumulated, his insight on transoceanic transportation was very cool and very useful and very much appreciated.

    Is your interest in shipping longstanding or more recently sparked by that post of mine on hidden radioactive cargo?

    BTW, what caused you to change the blog's byline? I mean, it's as witty and cool as the others, but I wish you had a repository of all the mottoes you've come up with over the years. I'm afraid of the possibility that I might eventually forget them.

    Funny the topic of conversation that led to Amba's response to you.

  2. I just saw you had a tag for the chemistry of sex and almost got lost at the saltpeter post. I couldn't remember if it's potassium nitrate that they use in Sensodyne toothpaste or potassium nitrite. Oh well. Then I saw you linked that post to one on nitric oxide, which has got to be the coolest biochemical signalling molecule, hands down (and dicks up). Vasodilation is one of the most wonderful aspects of the circulatory system. It's all about the flow, baby! (Except when the corpora cavernosa are too swollen by vasodilation to allow blood to leave the salty peter).

    Sexual zen. Good blood flow and hard-ons are two sides of the same coin. Nice. A conduit of both life and love.

  3. Is your interest in shipping longstanding or more recently sparked by that post of mine on hidden radioactive cargo?

    No, but I was inspired to think of writing about cobalt, nickel, and copper isotopes. I need to make some nifty graphics first.

    I really was inspired to do this when I read about Brunel's logic and it reminded me of what Amba told me. I got interested in the Great Eastern because of the previous copper post and because I've always loved paddlewheel boats. I'd love to cruise from St. Louis to New Orleans by boat. I'm not a gambler either--just love the lore like others like trains--always have.

  4. Though it makes no sense until you get into hydrodynamics and coefficients of friction, big ships go faster than small ones given the same horsepower per sub-surface area. Additionally, they can handle the seas better simply because of size. That was the advantage for a big ship like Titanic. The disadvantage comes with maneuverability (Titanic), but the economy of scale in shipbuilding favors large.