RE: Information & Power/Alexandria library

Billy Brown (
Mon, 10 May 1999 17:11:09 -0500

Dwayne wrote:
> Bzzzzt! I didn't say "hauling" I said "moving"

Same thing.

> your railway example requires vast amounts of infrastructure before it
> will move an inch.

Irrelevant. Your claim was "we can't do that". I was pointing out that we move similar amounts of mass on a daily basis.

> Now, do you know this for a fact? That this is how it would be done? I'm
> thinking your rock can't flex a lot, so what about the bit where it goes
> from the inclined plane of the ramp to the horizontal plane of the
> carriage? Won't it crack?

I know for a fact that it has been done that way - by everyone from the ancient Egyptians on forward. Thick blocks won't crack, and thin ones are placed on a sufficiently sturdy support structure before being moved (you can also play with the shape of the base of the ramp to reduce such stresses). Your motive force can be anything from humans (for small blocks) to bulldozers (for big ones) to huge, custom-built engines (for really gigantic objects).

> I'm not being contrary, I just want to make sure that we are dealing
> with known engineering principles here, not lots of people playing "I
> think" games based on spurious theories of modern capability.

I suggest you do some web searches on topics like "heavy hauling", "bridge building" and "heavy construction". You may find the results enlightening.

> I'm not aware of how we could lift a million-ton object..
> You haven't suggested how we could lift a thousand ton object? Anyone
> know what the carrying capacity of the largest crane in the world is?

That isn't relevant. You don't move gigantic objects (> a few thousand tons) by renting a crane. You do it by building a special set of machines just for the job at hand. If necessary, you also build whatever infrastructure those machines require. That's how a lot of modern mining, bridge building and dam construction is done, and it is also what the ancients did (albeit on a much smaller scale).

Now, I'm not sure what the theoretical limits to this would be, but I do know that we can move 100,000 ton objects without even trying hard - trains, oil rigs and all sorts of ships easily make it into this weight range. That is far beyond anything the ancients ever did, and it is also far below the limits of what we could do if we needed to.

> Um. So much for that bright idea..
> I realise that you can get talking heads to say anything, but I would
> that a show which is trying to convince people of dubious stuff would make
> extra effort to get qualified talking heads.

Why? I would assume exactly the opposite. It is standard practice for journalists to decide what quote they want, then find someone who will give it to them. They get paid for selling airtime, not for giving accurate information. The more sensational they can make a show like this, the more likely they are to be rewarded for producing it.

> Mind you, archaeologists will frequently come up with explanations which
> defy rational analysis should you actually try to attempt what they are
> saying, as they have a professional abhorrence of the "we have no idea"
> response.

Not true. As I said before, this isn't idle speculation. There have been dozens of projects in which archaeologists have actually built things using the same methods they think that the ancients used. The techniques behind just about all of the famous construction in Egypt, Greece and the Middle East have been demonstrated this way. So have the techniques used to build the statues on Easter Island, and there is spotty (but growing) coverage of methods from India, Northern Europe and the New World.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I