How Stuff Works

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

What is Sea Level?

I will be honest with you, up until today I had never really put much thought about how they determined that Mount Everest was 8,848 meters above sea level. Wait; let me back up first lest you think I'm a simpleton. I always understood the concept of elevation but I had never thought about exactly how they figure it out considering that most times the sea is hundreds of miles of away. Also, with all that ocean sloshing around and going up and down, how do they know where to start measuring from? Leave it up to gang at MinutePhysics to figure it out and explain it to us like the simpletons that we are. Spoiler alert: Gravity has a big role to play in the whole thing. Flickr photo credit: cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Jimmy Emerson
If you are anything like me, your mind wanders quite a bit when out paddling. For example, I often get stuck trying to figure out what exactly Eddie is singing in Pearl Jam's "Even Flow". I don't think we will ever figure that one out to be honest. One day earlier this summer while out on a day trip I got to thinking about the clouds in the sky and trying to imagine now much water is up there. So imagine my excitement when I found the video below that answers the question, how much does a hurricane weigh? Spoiler alert: they weigh a lot.
Here in North America, Coleman Fuel (naphtha or “white gas” as it’s also called) has been the fuel of choice for camp stoves and lanterns since the dawn of time. It’s been so popular that if you go into any old garage you are bound to find a rusty tin container of the fuel under the workbench against the back wall. According to Frank Schmidt a Senior Project Engineer at The Coleman Company, the fuel was developed in the early 1950’s as small motor fuel for lawnmowers, outboard motors as well as an industrial cleaning agent. The popularity of Coleman Fuel as motor fuel declined in the late 1950’s with advancement of other, better fuel technologies but it has since remained the go-to choice for heating camp coffee in the morning. So what is Coleman Fuel made of? In its simplest form it's a petroleum product either derived from natural gas or distilled from oil, coal tar or peat (partially decayed vegetation matter) due to its high carbon content. It also has a several other chemicals mixed in which include cyclohexane, nonane, octane, heptane, and pentane. Coleman Fuel is ideal for small stoves and lanterns due to its refined purity and high heat output. It also doesn’t give off the black smoke and toxic fumes that regular gasoline or kerosene does. Though it’s almost as flammable as gasoline, don’t put it in your car’s tank as the lack of some additives will cause engine knocking and eventually destroy your engine valves. Both of those are generally not good things. How long does Coleman Fuel last before it loses its octane punch? A Coleman rep on a message board said this: An un-opened container of Coleman Fuel stored in a dry area with no rapid extreme changes in temperature will remain viable for five to seven years. An opened container stored in the same area will remain viable for up to two years though will be at its best if used within a year. More info on backpacking fuels: fuel.papo-art.com
Sunday, 18 February 2007

How does GPS Work?

Global Positioning System satellites transmit signals to equipment on the ground. GPS receivers passively receive satellite signals; they do not transmit. GPS receivers require an unobstructed view of the sky, so they are used only outdoors and they often do not perform well within forested areas or near tall buildings. GPS operations depend on a very accurate time reference, which is provided by atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory. Each GPS satellite has atomic clocks on board.
Saturday, 13 January 2007

How do barometers work?

Dear Weather Guy, How do barometers work? Why do meteorologists use barometers? What do barometers do? When were barometers first invented? How do you make a model of a barometer? How accurate are barometers?
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