Learning from the School of Hard Rocks
My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: Roman concrete.
Though the Romans have a pretty impressive reputation, in many regards they weren't nearly so clever as people tend to think they were.
For example, their fabled legions, while effective early in Roman history, became rather useless toward the end: the knight was basically invented by barbarians looking to defeat Roman legions. Even after it became apparent that the legions were a tool of the past, the Romans foolishly just kept sticking with it.
However, one area in which they were unquestionably brilliant was in architecture and construction.
Much has been made of Roman aqueducts and other construction techniques, but one technology that doesn't get discussed nearly as much as it should is their concrete. Roman concrete—known as opus caementicium—is, interestingly, much more durable than modern day concrete.
We have many examples of Roman concrete that have survived all the way to today. The Pantheon in Rome (not to be confused with the Parthenon), for instance, is a concrete dome that has survived intact since 126 AD.
Even more impressive is Roman concrete's resistance to seawater. Seawater is incredibly corrosive to modern buildings, corroding and destroying them in mere decades. We're lucky to get 50 years out of modern concrete. Roman concrete, however, can survive immersion in seawater for centuries or even millennia; plenty of docks and pilings from Roman times can still be found off European shorelines.
What was their secret? Well, we don't know the exact composition of Roman concrete, but we do know one of the major secrets: they used volcanic ash instead of the fly ash we use today. When submerged in seawater, the seawater reacts with the mineral phillipsite, found in volcanic ash. Over time, a new mineral known as tobermorite forms in the cracks of the concrete. As it forms, the concrete actually gets stronger and stronger.
Roman concrete today is stronger than when it was first laid down.
Many people are trying to mimic Roman concrete today. Not only is it more durable and long lasting, but it's also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. The problem, of course, is the extremely long setting time: most builders don't want to wait long enough for Roman concrete to set.
Haste makes waste. Some people are okay with that. Roman concrete endures.
Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Manufacturing Outlook
This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy shows how his inventory contributes to the larger picture of the U.S. economy.
Click HERE to see how it all fits into place.
Or: Hit the Road, Jack
My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: not as numerous as cardboard cuts but much, much worse...
Forklifts weigh massively more than cars do. They are not toys. If you play with one, you're going to get hurt or die. Not that those people apt to play with them in the first place are going to listen, but at least I tried.
In all seriousness, they're one of the leading cause of serious workplace injuries in warehouses. (The leading cause of minor injuries—er, hands down—are cardboard cuts.)
An early ancestor of the forklift was a manually powered hoist that we employed to lift a load. Simple in design and easy to manipulate, it generated lift through basic mechanical advantage. Those stuck around for a while without changing much.
In 1906, though, the Pennsylvania railroad introduced battery powered trucks to move luggage at stations. These two developments quickly began converging in the years leading up to the first world war, when a labor shortage—brought on by the war and the Spanish Flu—spurred the development of early hauling tractors and trucks.
We continued to develop these over the years, and the introduction of hydraulics set the pace for modern usefulness.
The most important piece of the puzzle, though, is one that no one blinks twice at today: the standardized wooden pallet. Skids (essentially pallets with no boards on the bottom) had existed since Ancient Egypt.
Up until the 1930s, barrels and crates remained the preferred shipping options. Pallets, however, came together with forklifts in a perfect storm, and we rapidly standardized them, along with forklift sizes. Though there are many different pallet standards today, they largely remain homogenous in any given region.
We also standardized pallet jacks. (Interestingly enough, the pallet jack dates back to 1918, making the forklift actually older than the pallet jack.) The second world war only served to cement forklifts and pallets as preeminent in shipping.
This might all seem like idle trivia, but it's actually incredibly important. We design pretty much everything in that world—from truck widths and road widths to warehouse layouts and cardboard box sizes—with the different sizes of pallets in mind.
Cheers to you, Yard Ramp Guy. May 2023 bring greater reach to your business. In the meantime…
“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”
— Bill Vaughn
Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Our 2023 Roundup
This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy dusts off his singing jacket and belts out a tune that bogarts the spirit of the holidays and kinda turns it into industrial gold.
Click HERE . . . and I dare you not to at least hum along.
Everything Old is New Again
My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: all about frequency and illusion...and frequency illusion.
The other day, one of my grandkids was telling me about a video game he’d been playing. Kids being kids in the 21st century, this was hardly an unusual occurrence, and I was only halfway paying attention. (And, um, please don’t tell Maggie; it’ll just encourage her conspiracy theory that I’m not listening.)
Then: a couple days later, a friend mentioned that their kids were playing that same game. And then I saw an ad for the game. And then I saw a news article about it. Now, this was not a new game or trendy fidget spinner-like sensation. It'd been around for a bit. So why, all of a sudden, was it appearing in my life?
It probably wasn't, actually. If I'd been paying attention, I'm sure I would have noticed this video game’s presence for some time.
The human brain tends to be extremely selective about what it pays attention to. This is sometimes known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.
Essentially, what happens is that your brain gets really excited about this new thing and starts noticing it much more often, whereas before that same brain of yours might have just dismissed it as unimportant.
The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon has one of the weirder names in psychology. Most monikers for stuff like this have to do with its discoverer or researcher, but Baader-Meinhof was a West German terrorist group in the 1970s. It's actually a nickname; the frequency illusion is the preferred name.
An anonymous poster on an Internet forum had been discussing how he'd learned about the terrorist group. The next day, he came across a gaggle of seemingly random references to Baader-Meinhof, just as the name of my grandson’s video game kept popping into my life.
If this seems like a weird brain quirk, in terms of evolution, it actually makes a lot of sense. There's way too much happening in the world for us to really pay attention to all of it, so we need filters for the important stuff. Like video games. And everything Maggie says.
Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Enhancing Our Services
This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy is growing his business ⏤ naturally, in a really smart and strategic way. And his three new team members seem like just the right choices.
Click HERE to read about the evolution of the business.
Marsh and Cope Have a Falling Out
My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: it ain't easy studying dinosaurs.
There's one field of geology notably unrepresented at the United States Geological Survey: paleontology. This seems like a fairly major omission, and it's all thanks to a series of events known as the Bone Wars.
During the Gilded Age (the last thirty years or so of the 1800s in America), paleontology was an incredibly competitive field. At the time, we collected dinosaur fossils more rapidly than ever before. Two figures stood out above all the rest—Edward Drinker Cope, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and Othniel Charles Marsh.
Marsh and Cope began as friends when they first met in Berlin (Germany has always been a paleontological treasure trove), but their relationship began to sour quickly. By the early 1870s, things heated up to an absurd degree. A series of mishaps, oddities, and minor snubs, along with the fundamentally incompatible personalities of the two men, irrevocably ruined things between them.
In 1873, the Bone Wars began in earnest. The first shots fired were academic ones: renaming and reclassifying species to mess with the other, publicly pointing out one another's errors, and the like.
If things had stayed like that, it wouldn't have made history the way it did; academic rivalries are, as they say, a dime a dozen. However, the confrontation escalated rapidly from there.
Marsh and Cope began hiring employees away from one another, bribing officials to advantage themselves and hurt the other, stealing fossils from one another's sites, and so on and so forth. They actively tried to destroy one another's reputations, and even turned to destroying fossils rather than letting the other get his hands on them.
Financially and professionally, the rivalry eventually ruined both of them, and they never abandoned it.
The two scientists discovered 136 new species during the Bone Wars, including Triceratops and Stegosaurus. (Before then, we had only nine named species of dinosaur in North America.)
Unfortunately, the Bone Wars also did much to damage the reputation of American paleontology. It resulted in the loss of numerous fossils, the USGS losing its paleontology division, and a severe, decades-long blow to the reputation of American paleontology.
Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Warehouse Connection
This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy reminds us of his focus on safety and ⏤ what's this? ⏤ describes a ramp that's a level plane? Blasphemy, I say.
Click HERE to be bothered by it all.