Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I will cheerfully admit that I don't get exercised about the appropriate things. The things that get normal people excited aren't the things that do it for me. Normal people, I know from my online reading, experience despair and the urge to give up on their fellow man when they hear about fundamentalists and upland Tennessee aborigines -- Hoosiers, even! -- who fail to accept Holy Evolution. Doesn't bother me a bit; in fact, if by "accepting it" one means thinking that life on the planet is the result of a random incidence of abiogenesis a zillion or so years ago, well, I don't believe that stuff either.

But I have my own odd science buttons, always there and waiting to be pushed. The local Professional Journalist Frank Gray pushed one today:
A few days ago an obscure item showed up in the news.

A company in India was going to start mass producing an air-powered car made of lightweight fiberglass. It would top out at 68 mph and travel up to 125 miles on one pump-up.

Bob Manor of Salamonia in Jay County must feel at least a little bit vindicated on hearing that. The car, if it does go into production next year, would prove that the idea Manor first came up with 39 years ago and has been struggling to perfect since then wasn’t a crackpot notion.

We first wrote about Manor almost seven years ago. He had a working model – a very ugly working model – of an air-powered car that was fueled by big torpedo-like tanks that held air compressed to about 45 pounds per square inch.

Manor had converted an old gasoline engine to run on compressed air, and had even tinkered with attaching compressors to the wheels so that as the car ran, it would refill the compressed air tanks.

The problem was money and expertise.
Well, no, the problem isn't money, nor is it expertise. The problem is freakin' thermodynamics, boys! But, by all means, let us continue:
In the past few days, Manor has been testing the rebuilt air car, running it through drills while it sits stationary in his garage. He’d like to take it out on the road eventually and give it a test run. But he’s nervous about doing that.

“If the government and oil companies find out you have a new form of energy, watch out,” Manor says. “You know what happened in South Carolina.”

In Charlotte, N.C., a man who converted his diesel car to run on vegetable oil reclaimed from restaurants was fined $1,000 by the state for not paying fuel taxes. Manor is afraid he’ll get slammed similar penalties if he hits the road with a car that runs on air.

Manor hasn’t received much encouragement. He did find two engineers willing to look at what he’d created, one from Ball State and one from the University of Dayton.

One estimated the truck could travel three-quarters of a mile. The other said he thought it would be able to travel 50 feet on a charge of air.

At 82, why listen to them? One of these days Manor will take his air-powered truck out and see for himself.

And that will probably be the end of it.

“I’m ready to hang it up,” he said. “Money controls everything.”
Ah, yes, money. I know just what he means. Why, a few years ago, I was all set to become the dominant center in the NBA, totally embarrassing all those millionaires with my stumpy, five-foot-eight bod. But I knew it was too dangerous to do it ... that players' association would disappear me in a heartbeat. Money controls everything.

"Liberal education" sounds like a great idea. We should try it sometime. If education were a bit more liberal, which is to say a bit more comprehensive, it might be that a lot less foolishness would ever see print. But meanwhile ...
One of these days, as we said, he’ll take his truck on a test run and see what happens. He’s promised to call when he’s done.
Don't hold your breath while you wait, Frank.

1 comment:

Jeff Pruitt said...

Mass producing next year? I wonder how many years they've been saying that?

I'm sure they're looking for investors...