It’s that crazy time of the week again, so lets see what I managed to dig up.  This week, it’s time for a little numerical madness…

1. So did you hear about how the SNCF (France’s national rail service) recently managed to order 2,000 trains that were too wide to fit many of their rural platforms?  Still, the €50m to fix the platforms pales in comparison with the €15bn cost of the trains, so I guess there’s a lot of people out chiselling bits off platforms around the French countryside right now…

2. Then there was the Swedish warship, Vasa, launched in 1628 which sank less than a mile into her maiden voyage.  Since raising the hull in 1961 scientists have carried out many studies on the hull, but the most significant factor they found was that the hull was thicker on the port side than the starboard side, probably due to the rulers that they found which had been used by the workmen – 2 were ‘Swedish feet’ with 12 inches, while the other 2 were ‘Amsterdam feet’ with 11 inches.  Yep, can’t think why it sank…

3. Or what about the Mars Orbiter, lost after it came too close to Mars when attempting to go into orbit.  Nasa staff had been using units in metric, while a contractor was using imperial measurements, and the investigation following the loss of the $125m satellite found the root cause was a “failed translation of English units into metric units” in a piece of ground software.

4. Did you know that Big Ben is cracked?  Contrary to popular belief, Big Ben is not that tower at the Houses Of Parliament in London, but in fact is the bell inside it.  After the first bell cracked during testing in 1857, it was taken away to be melted and recast.  2 years later the replacement was hoisted into place and again it cracked.  Many legal arguments raged, theories were advanced, and eventually the hammer was replaced rather than waiting another 2 years for a replacement bell.  In the end, they just rotated the bell so the new hammer didn’t hit the cracked bit!

5. And finally, how would you measure ‘sea level’?  It had never occurred to me that sea level wasn’t the same the world over, but it turns out that if you try and do a joint construction venture between 2 countries that take different measurements for sea level, you can end up with a bridge with a 54cm height difference in the middle!  In this case the Germans were taking sea level in the North Sea, while the Swiss, on the other side, were using the Mediterranean.  Knowing there would be a 27cm difference between the two, someone then added rather than subtracting.  Oops!

The Germans finally lowered their side of it so that the 2 sides could meet, but it’s not the only time the two sides of Laufenburg have fallen out over bridges, another bridge between the 2 countries lay half paved for 2 years after someone on the Swiss side decided they didn’t like the cobbles that had been used…

Linking up to my fellow Randomeers, and hoping that you haven’t made any whoppers of a calculation error this week…

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