atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#1609: Train wreck (in Rockford)

Last week, I mean. Wonderduck provides the follow-up.

Here is the funny thing about trains: they're big and really heavy, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of hydroplaning. And even if the train is moving slowly enough for that not to be a concern, whenever there is standing water on railroad tracks--any time--it's supposed to be considered a major hazard.

Why? Let's take a look at the construction of railroad tracks. A typical railroad track consists of a sub-grade, ballast, and the track itself. The intent is to spread the load over as wide an area as possible.

The track itself essentially "floats" on a bed of rock shards--very, very coarse gravel, pieces about the size of a small child's fist. This promotes good drainage, and it allows the track to move very slightly in response to changes in temperature. The rock--called "ballast"--holds the track in place and supports it.

The loose nature of the ballast has many more advantages than disadvantages, but chief among the latter is its susceptibility to erosion. Its loose nature lends itself to being washed away. Most of the time this isn't a problem; railroad beds are typically graded above the surrounding area such that water runs off the tracks. But when you've got flooding, it's a whole other ball of wax.

We don't know yet--won't know until the NTSB finishes its investigation--what happened to the CN track through "Duckford". But the early reports indicate that people tried to let CN know there was a problem, and that CN apparently either ignored or couldn't react quickly enough to these reports to prevent a derailment.

* * *

As an afterthought, this Ars Technica post lets the cat out of the bag re: string theory:'s clear that what we know about nothing doesn't explain everything. When asked about the apparent directionality of time, Wilczek responded by saying, "it's remarkable how well we've done by ignoring all that stuff." It's also had nothing to say about String Theory which, "hasn't made significant contact with empirical reality yet."
Emphasis mine, as usual. So: string theory "hasn't made significant contact with empirical reality" yet it is the shit among theoretical physicists?

What is this bullshit?

* * *

PDB on the mainstream media, and he couldn't be more right.

* * *

Michelle Malkin on the hushed-up EPA report which has now been released. On a Friday, of course.

* * *

Is this person serious?

fail owned pwned pictures

Guess what? Real life does not work like Harry Potter. You want to cast a spell on yourself to turn yourself into a mermaid? I can assign a probability to that for you right now, but I have to resort to Calculus for Beginners in order to do it.

Probability of your using magic successfully to turn yourself into a mermaid: Lim 0.

...the Wikipedia article is useless to anyone who isn't already a mathemetician, so let me explain it this way: if you wish to express a number (or function) which craps out at a certain point--such as dividing by zero--you can use the "Limit" operator to keep yourself out of the danger zone.

For example, Lim (X-->0) f(x)=1/x can keep you from division by zero simply by setting X as close to zero as possible--and for a mathemetician, "as possible" is literally infinitesimally close.

So when I say something has a "lim 0" probability, I mean that the probability of that thing happening is so vanishingly small as to be (for all effects and purposes) impossible. Only my unfailing belief in the impossible keeps me from saying it's impossible to turn yourself into a mermaid.

I mean, that must be why I consistently vote Republican even though the GOP has proven itself time and again not to be interested in running the country: I have that little tiny hope that a thermodynamic miracle can occur.

Yeah: lim 0.

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