A Soap Box Legend in Parts

Have you ever been in those situations as an adventurous kid or bold young teenager where your friends enthusiastically encourage you to do something you are not quite sure you want to do or should do?

This is what happened to yours truly one day with two boyhood friends testing our new streamlined modification on our self-built go-cart. The amount of time the three of us spent on R&D (research and development) for this brilliant enhancement had to have been at least 4-5 minutes! What could possibly go wrong?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

The racing era? 1974 – 75. I and my race-buddies were 11 to 12 years of age. The BM-501 (Bat Mobile 500 v1) was a two-axle chassis with an old wooden toy-trunk nailed down to the wooden chassis. The toy trunk was 2-ft (H) x 5-ft (L) x 2-ft (W), and kept us Speed-Racers tucked fairly tight inside. It had 10-inch rear wheels (from common toy wagons) and 5-inch front wheels, typically found on lawn-mowers of the day. The front steering was cleverly accomplished by a rope attached near both front wheels with a 75-80 degree turning-range, centering hinge that held the front axle to the chassis. Pull the rope’s right-side, turn to the right. Pull the left-side, turn left. The engineering alone that went into this marvel of motion was the talk of the neighborhood, yes by parents, but most importantly the girls! We were heroes to be… in our own eyes!

Yes, we were truly becoming sexy Demons on Wheels.

My childhood home was in a hilly neighborhood. Ideal for Demons on Wheels. My house was a two-story split level home where the driveway went from our street, down the side of the house, turning rightward to a larger driveway for two cars, garages underneath the first floor, and a grass lawn the remainder of the rear property (see image below).

Dallas childhood home-driveway

My actual childhood home and driveway today – Google Maps 2019

After about 40-50 runs starting at the crest of our driveway (see red arrow), my racing teammates, Keith and Greg, and myself wanted a bigger challenge and more speed. We weren’t going to make legends for ourselves or to the girls unless we impressed. We pondered our choices and opportunities.

Keith had always been the bolder of us three. He had a gallant disregard to normal, whatever was convention he’d push it. There was one race on the lower BM-501/BMX track we thought he’d never recover or regain his courage, if it’s really courage. Some girls argued it was idiocy, but we couldn’t abandon our daring friend over some silly girls opinions. What do they know about soap box engineering and racing? Besides, doing things with Keith usually made Greg and me look and sound cool too. More on this later. Suddenly Keith had an ah-hah moment.

What if we start in the Lowery’s driveway, he pointed, cross our street, then onto our driveway and down? Greg and I considered the path, the dual hills offering more speed, and likely much further in the grass through our rear lawn. Further than any man had gone before! Unanimously we yelled YES! It was an exceptional idea and we patted Keith on the shoulder and high-fives all around.

Dallas childhood home-driveway_2

The new proposed race track to better speed and legendary fame!

After only about 10-15 runs between the three of us, hitting the street from the Lowery’s driveway, hopping the crest of our driveway, then making that sharp right turn to eventually slow in the grass to a stop, surprisingly the walls of our wooden toy trunk in which we sat began coming apart. The constant repeating G’s we wheeling demons were pulling in that right-hand turn was just too much force for that wooden box frame. A serious dilemma confronted our youthful, brilliant engineering and racing skills:  A) Can the box be repaired? If not, B) do we find another lesser hill to ride affording driver safety, but sacrificing the roar of the crowds and girls wooing? Or C) do we just remove the four crumbling walls and sit on the flat bottom so that our fans could see every inch of our beautiful, skilled bodies? How were the new Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart, and Mario Andretti of soap box racing going to handle this challenge?

It was determined by our consortium of advanced brains that the wooden trunk-walls were irreparable. We did not have the same carpentry skills, glue or nails to repair it to its original specifications. “A” is out of the question. What about “B”? It was soon deduced that if we moved to some other hill in some other neighborhood we would lose our fan-base—which were our giggling nearby girls and sisters. Also, we’d have to involve the Racing Commission and Safety Board, i.e. our parents. “B” was most certainly out of the question. It would have ruined our racing careers!

“C” it was! We went about refitting—rather dismantling—our fine machine of motion and in less than 20-minutes BM-502 was ready to roll into the annals of history.

Once the three of us topped the Lowery’s driveway, looked down to the street, down my driveway, and the back pavement off in the distance, a flashback took us all by the necks! HOLD ON GUYS! Greg mumbled with timidity. The three of us remembered when we once rode our dirt-bicycles with knobby-tires down my driveway, over different sized jumping ramps for Cool-points, and then skid our rear tires to screeching halts. Only the last time the three of us did that was when Keith didn’t stop with a screeching rear tire. Instead his chain came off his rear sprocket when he landed his jump.

Keith kept going and going, jumped our grass embankment Dad and I had built at that corner of the back pavement to deter eroding of our manicured grass and topsoil by rainstorms and runoff. Keith later told us, with some vehemence, he was not trying for double Cool-points as we accused, he was scared shitless. He jumped off his bike to save himself from almost certain death or a face-plant into our old, massively huge Oak Tree… just before our aluminum fence (see image below). Or if you avoided our Oak Tree, six to eight feet further was a very, VERY busy 6-lane Dallas Boulevard called Westmoreland Blvd. Make it that far into traffic and you have a serious mess moms and dads won’t be happy about. I would think the drivers of those cars too after glimpsing a flying kid go by, with bicycle (and parts?) or no bicycle, just before impact.

Dallas childhood home-driveway_3

The jump and hill to death by oak or bodily dismemberment.

Keith then had another ah-hah moment! This is different guys he consoled, I had 2-wheels and no chain. He pointed down to the untried BM-502, We have four wheels and no chance of a missing chain!” he said with confidence. Our three engineering brains acknowledged his well-made point. Who’s going first? Greg asked breaking the silent pause. More silence and looks at each other. Then Keith said I came up with the idea of the faster better track. It’s you two’s turn.

My sense of duty and honor began to gnaw at me inside. After all, it was my driveway, my street, my fast go-cart, and I knew this faster track like the back of my hand. I knew what had to be done. I’ll go I said with some sort of unknown cranial sharpness and courageous spirit.

Resemblance of BM-502

A close resemblance of the legendary BM-502, but a totally flat seat and bigger rear tires not shown.

I mounted BM-502 for its maiden voyage. Keith went down to the street to monitor any traffic coming either way. Greg went all the way to the back of my house to witness racing history being made. I waited for Keith to give the all clear. In my head I imagined the transition from the Lowery’s drive into the street and that slight verge to the left much like Olympic bob-sledders do just before the starting gun or beeps go off. Up the crest of our drive and small lift off the ground, now the speed goes higher—must make that right-hand turn sooner and firmly at these speeds, I said to myself—and Keith yelled CLEAR! I moved my hips to get comfortable, lifted my feet onto the front axle with the steering rope in both hands and she began to roll immediately. Two seconds later and there was no turning back.

Before I knew it I was across the street and up the driveway crest with all four wheels off the ground! Keith let out a big roaring YEAH! as I came down. The girls gasped in awe. It seemed like slow-motion, but then I was at the next decline at the right-side bushes. No time to think of the past, girls, and what was behind me. My speed picked up quickly. It felt like 100-mph if not 45. I was at the large back pavement, time to turn right. It HAD to be quick and firm or else the oak of death or Westmoreland splat awaited me. I pulled the rope from the right, hard! That’s when everything went into a blur.

I no longer had my feet on the front axle. I no longer had the BM-502 under me. I did still have the rope tightly grasped in my right hand, pulling still I’m sure, hell… nothing else was as it should be or as I had just imagined it. The girls began screaming. About that time came the unbending, unforgiving, hard concrete on my left arm, then shoulder, then hip and butt. As if that wasn’t enough, then came the left rear wheel up my back, over my head and past me as I continued skidding, rolling across that aforementioned pavement. When my raggedy-Ann body finally came to a halt I wondered what have I lost, broken, and which time-space dimension had I entered. But suddenly that didn’t matter. The pain from all over my body started reaching my still foggy, oozy brain. I let out a few big screams of my agony and defeat.

I do remember up ahead of me the BM-502 had come to a rest upside down and wheels still spinning. The scene was sheer carnage I’m sure. The girls didn’t know what to do or what to say. They weren’t about to touch anything!

Greg ran into the house to get my Mom. Keith ran down from the top of the driveway to see what remained of this once great race driver. At least that’s what he told me later. When Mom hurriedly arrived she yelled What on Earth happened!? Greg and Keith very carefully and cautiously considered their answers as I laid there in pain and a trail of skin behind me. Mom checked my arms, elbows, butt thighs, knees, all the typical areas that get torn-up on concrete pavement crashes. I need to get you into a baking soda bath and cleaned up. Come on. she concluded. What happened?

Keith and Greg finally answered with their excellent, well-thought out account of events. Dwain didn’t stay on the go-cart. Even the NTSB would have been astonished by that crash-site assessment. Mom pressed them for a more… precise picture as she helped me to the bathroom for the tub and bandages. The two geniuses rethought their first answer, considered more and explained again. Well Mrs. Miller, we didn’t consider what might happen when we removed the four walls of the toy-trunk and started up higher at the Lowery’s. I think Mom responded with Forget it. I’ll just ask the girls.

Oh my god, that was the WORST possible thing she could do! Our reputations would go down the toilet, a worse fate than death-by-oak or the Westmoreland splat. How were we going to regain our former glory?

After the Day of Wipe-out the BM-502 lost its appeal along with more damaged parts. Nor did we dazzling mechanics have much motivation for a BM-503 GTE we had also dreamt. We learned in the end, it wasn’t the Oak Tree of death or launching into Westmoreland Blvd. traffic that was to be feared. It was our ignorance and inflated egos—and sketchy physics—that were to be most feared.

Like many a man before us our lofty self-perceptions for legendary racing status, below-average engineering skills, less than sufficient forethought and testing, and hordes of female race fans blinded us. We were no match against natural laws of velocity, gravity, distance, acceleration, deceleration or impact, and pain. The famous words of Captain Sully come to mind:  Brace for impact.

Thus ended the three almost famous soap box racing careers of mini-Niki Lauda, mini-Jackie Stewart, and mini-Mario Andretti before they even got off the ground. Well… I guess in some cases into the air (what goes up) and into the ground (must come down) in a sundry of pieces and parts. An elusive concept for boys it seems. 😉

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always


Creative Commons License
This work by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.professortaboo.com/contact-me/.

Every 405,000 Years

Geo-core samplesFor decades astronomers have theorized that like our Moon impacts our tides, over tens of thousands of years our closest and largest planets in our solar system (Venus and Jupiter) have influenced Earth’s climate. Since Serbian astrophysicist Milutin Milanković hypothesized his Earth orbital-cycles of variations in the 1920’s affected Earth’s climates, there simply hasn’t been any sufficient physical proof for his cycles theory. Until last month.

With the further advanced technology and methodologies used on geological formations and strata (magnetostratigraphy) in correlation with the Newark–Hartford APTS (Astrochronostratigraphic Polarity Timescale) published May 7, 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, now:

…provide[s] empirical confirmation that the unimodal 405-kiloyear orbital eccentricity cycle reliably paces Earth’s climate back to at least 215 million years ago, well back in the Late Triassic Period.

This conclusion was based on the geological research of three different cores:  two from two different sites of ancient lake beds in New Jersey and New York, and one rock core 1,500-feet long from the Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park.

The geologists noticed that lake sediment cores would disclose a consistent pattern of ancient lakes drying up then refilling over the course of hundreds of thousands of years forming different geological strata. This suggested cyclical changes in climate. The difficulty was that at the time they lacked the extensive methods to accurately date those climatic shifts. Fortunately, the Arizona Petrified Forest core, contained layers of ash from volcanic eruptions. These could definitely be dated because they contained radioisotopes.

Scientists compared and aligned the Arizona core dates to the NJ-NY ancient lake cores using bands found in all of the cores, indicating reversals in Earth’s magnetic fields. Yes, “reversals”! This allowed them to more precisely study the records. The analysis then demonstrated that the climate swings did indeed take place every 405,000 years for at least the last 215-million years, which is back through the Late Triassic Age when dinosaurs walked the Earth.

What does all this have to do exactly with Venus and Jupiter? Understanding gravitational forces by mass, Venus — the closest planet to us at 24-million miles — tugs us slightly closer to the Sun, and Jupiter — the largest planet in our solar system at 318-times more massive than Earth — tugs us slightly further from the Sun. At the peaks of those infrequent elliptical orbits, Earth has indeed historically experienced (the last 215-million years) hotter summers and colder winters with more extreme times of rain-flooding and dryer droughts

antarctic ice-strata

Antarctic ice strata also determines Earth’s climate millions of years in the past

Dr. Dennis Kent at Columbia and Rutgers Universities, specializing in paleomagnatism, states:

Scientists can now link changes in the climate, environment, dinosaurs, mammals and fossils around the world to this 405,000-year cycle in a very precise way. The climate cycles are directly related to how the Earth orbits the sun and slight variations in sunlight reaching Earth lead to climate and ecological changes.

Beyond Earth’s ancient past and astrophysics this study is a substantial breakthrough for the methods in which geologists are able to date cores and present a reliable more accurate timeline of Earth’s geologic past. It will also assist in many other scientific domains!

Paleontologist of the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Steve Brusatte:

[With the aid of APTS and newest magnetostratigraphy it] is a really important study for clarifying the Triassic timescale and untangling the sequence of events that occurred as Pangea began to split up and the dinosaurs originated and then diversified. It’s mostly a study of how to tell geological time rather than of how changes in climate relate to evolution.

Most people want to know the more immediate concern: Where are we currently in the Venus-Jupiter climate-cycle? And could Venus’ and Jupiter’s tug-cycles be responsible for our current climate-changes?

Bad news climate-change deniers. Astronomers and astrophysicists calculate that we are about in the middle of the 405k cycle. Earth’s orbit is very close to circular, not elliptical, and presently not near enough to cause disruptions in climate or global warming. The changes we have been experiencing come from some 238-years of outsized human output and input in the release of greenhouse gasses.


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

Creative Commons License
Blog content with this logo by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://professortaboo.com/contact-me/.

Untapped Worlds – Entries

I continue this series from the last post, Untapped Worlds — Departure

cell-systemThere is a popular saying in professional sports that “you [your team] are only as strong as your weakest player.” Another similar analogy is a wheel is only as strong as its weakest cog or spoke, or a chain its link. There are many other similar analogies that infer engineering or architectural laws:  the two strongest geometric shapes are the arch (or dome or sphere), and the other is the triangle. The reason this law is true is because of how weight or gravity are shared and displaced. Therefore, it stands to reason that other shapes and designs are insufficient for high levels of weight and gravity. Does this hold true for human social constructs? Are all human constructs impervious to and inerrant over time?

* * * * * * * * * *

Human_bodyWhen I was a high school senior I entered an engineering contest of wooden toothpick-bridges of some 13 physics class contestants around the Dallas area earning extra credit. The contest determined who could build the strongest toothpick bridge. The finished bridges of every possible design were placed onto a compression testing machine to decide how much weight each contestant’s toothpick-bridge could withstand before snapping and collapsing. The contest rules allowed for 2-weeks of preparation and construction before the day of reckoning. Fortunately for me they allowed parents to guide and assist. Being a mechanical engineer, my father was more than happy to partner up. He thrived in these sorts of engineering feats.

human-habitats_1The first order of building our bridge, as mentioned, was RT&D — research, testing and development. I had to go buy five different brands of toothpicks, preferably different shapes. Next, I had to purchase four different brands of epoxy-glue, preferably with different ingredients. Next, I had to get a bucket, C-clamps, our carpenter’s/mechanic’s multifunctional workbench, a measuring cup, and the water hose. Dad made me create a table on a sheet of paper with columns and rows showing the 5 different toothpicks and 4 different epoxy-glues and one column labelled “Break Weight.” From the closed table-clamp of the workbench holding one rigging, which held one end of the toothpicks, to the other c-clamp holding the other end of the toothpick, which held the bucket underneath, all hanging under the workbench… I slowly poured 1-cup of water into the bucket. Marked down 1-cup. Slowly poured another cup and human-habitats_2repeated this process until the toothpick snapped or sheared off. After hours of testing 3-4 times the twenty various combinations of toothpicks and epoxides, we had our strongest combination for the building of our bridge. Next came the design of our bridge given the structure of the contest’s compression testing machine and how it would apply measured force. Based on those specs, my “lead engineer” deduced that the best design was a complex version of the Howe Truss design with many more trusses forming an A-shape (see slide show below). Precise methodical construction began following the blueprints Dad and I had meticulously drawn. Each set of joints had to dry overnight.

Two weeks later and at the end of the official contest, the winning bridge held just over 300 lbs before breaking. It was our bridge. The closest runner-up held up to about 97 lbs.

Your “bridge” is only as strong as your weakest truss/joint.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Becoming and Being Human

What is it that makes us human? What factors and influences make us who we are as a person? Some answers would be versions of the mental, emotional, physical, and intangible/spiritual aspects that make up our person. Though this is not an entirely wrong four-dimensional answer, I feel it falls short. It’s too vague.

I think what makes us human, what makes us who we are and who we are becoming has four primary influences:  1) resources and food, 2) our physical body, 3) our brain, and 4) social life, pretty much in that order with fluctuations. What do these four influences involve?

Resources/Food — How we are conceived and raised, from embryonic to young adult, depends largely on our parents’ available resources:  food, shelter, and protection all relative to our parents’ learned wisdom, and to an extent their parents before them and so on. But it’s more too. Those resources are relative to what Earth and/or others provide or take away.

Body — How we develop as a person is directly influenced first by the available resources for our parents/family, then eventually what resources are available to ourself and how much mobility is required (or in modern time, “chosen” mobility as opposed to several million years ago) to achieve and adapt our physical body. This is also closely connected with the next influence…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Brain — How our modern brain develops not only helps decide what type body and personality are most productive and healthy for survival, but it also determines what resources can be found, created, or modified to improve its self, the body, and to different extents our environment. From 800,000 to 200,000 years ago paleoanthropologists and climatologists determined that brain size increased rapidly during dramatic climate changes effecting resources, then bodies. Larger more complex brains helped the earliest humans to interact with each other and survive in new adapted ways as their environment became unpredictable. And this leads me to the next influence…

space-habitat_1Social life — Over hundreds of thousands of years our ancestors learned the impact of group survival. I often call it “strength in numbers” because not only is it very hard (impossible?) to do solo all tasks to live and survive, but it’s also easier to come up with ingenious solutions or improvements when you have a large think-tank to access! And no surprise, the more diverse the think-tank, the more ingenious the solutions created. And it may be no further surprise, language and its articulation or expression between think-tank members are critical and proportional to the group’s or social network’s complexity.

The dynamics of these four flexing and fluid components — or in bridge design, tension and compression limits — make up the strength, health, and adaptability of the whole, the human. It would follow that a most dynamic human would be one where all four components, influences, and subcomponents, are continuously being monitored, tested, mixed-racemodified, strengthened, balanced, and rebalanced. A most dynamic human would have an above average or higher access to the best Resources, an above average or higher Body performance, an above average or higher Brain complexity-performance, and an above average or higher managed Social life. And with the fact that human existence is always relative to many fluid forces and influences inside as well as outside of self — i.e. from parents, to Earth and others — why would anyone desire and choose, as a whole, to be solo, weaker, and less than average? And given that our brain works on a mere lean 12.6 watts and is prone to degrees of ambiguity, superstition, memory-errors, and deception as shown in the previous two posts of this series, shouldn’t we at least thoroughly dissect and reëxamine who we are more than once or twice in our adult life, asking what more could we be…for ourself, those we love, and others?

A Complete 4-D Checkup

In order to make all four dimensions/influences improved, stronger, wiser, more dynamic and thus better support, manage, and invigorate family, people, and life’s compressions and tensions, I feel we must identify and understand more deeply these subcomponents of each dimension; learn how they function and interact with the other three and beyond our own brain and bodies.

In the next post of this series, Untapped Worlds — Reside, I want to breakdown the subcomponents of all four influences that make us human and offer suggestions of how to expand them, strengthen them, and thus making them more dynamic. One of these four influences/components is on the brink of rapid historic expansion and/or change!

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

(paragraph break)

Creative Commons License
Blog content with this logo by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://professortaboo.com/.