Many of today’s superfast rollercoaster Anatomy of a launcher rides wouldn’t get anywhere without special launching mechanisms. These mechanisms are typically powered by hydraulics and grant incredible speeds to the coaster’s train; indeed, the fastest in the world can achieve 240 kilometres (150 miles) per hour, which it reaches in under five seconds.
Key to a hydraulic launch system is its ‘catch car’, which runs underneath the coaster’s train and track. The car is responsible for receiving the energy generated by the launcher’s hydraulic motors and mechanisms and converting it into linear motion. The catch car does this by effectively towing the train down a portion of the track at high speed, with it then detaching at the last moment, leaving the train and its passengers free to zoom away.
These hydraulic coaster launch mechanisms share much technology with aircraft carrier launch systems for fighter jets, with both situations requiring the vehicle to be propelled to high velocity within a short distance and timeframe. Both the fastest and tallest rollercoasters in the world – the Ferrari-built Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and the Kingda Ka in the USA, respectively – use hydraulic launch systems for propulsion.
The Goubet I submarine was a two-person, electric submarine built by French inventor Claude Goubet in 1885. Manufactured in Paris, the sub has gone down in history as the first to be electrically powered, with a brace of cutting-edge tech advancing more primitive models.
The Goubet I was battery powered, utilised a Siemens electric motor to drive its propeller and power a navigation light, and measured five metres (16.4 feet) long. The craft weighed in at just over six tons. It was controlled from a central position, with its two crew positioned back to back, seeing out of the vessel via small glass windows; they could see up, down and to the sides to some extent thanks to prisms.
After testing in the River Seine in Paris, however, the Goubet I was ultimately deemed a failure, because the submersible wasn’t able to maintain a stable course or depth while moving forward. As a result, while some of its innovative technology lived on in later designs, the Goubet I itself was quickly scrapped.
Sit-on lawnmowers typically feature a diesel engine, which uses two drive belts: one to turn the wheels and one to turn the rotating blades. The controls are similar to a car’s, with gears, pedals and a steering wheel.
Most ride-on mowers have a series of rotary steel blades; these spin horizontally across the ground, creating upwards suction, which draws in the grass. The spinning blade cuts the grass very roughly and can cause discolouration due to bruising and tearing. Controls allow blade height to be adjusted, so they can be lifted and disengaged from the engine while the vehicle is being driven.
For high-quality lawns, a reel mower is used instead. These have a fixed cutting bar, which is positioned parallel to the grass; as the mower moves over the lawn a series of spiral blades attached to a reel above the fixed blade spin rapidly, pushing the grass past the bar. The gap between the reel and the bar is kept at approximately the thickness of a blade of grass, which ensures a super-clean cut.
Rollers are sometimes added to mowers to smooth the grass after it has been cut and to cover up any wheel marks. These are also responsible for creating the characteristic stripy look often seen on football pitches and ornamental lawns.
Monorails have been around since the 1800s, but only really came to public attention in the 1950s when Walt Disney installed one in his new theme park: Disneyland, California. In most parts of the world their use is still restricted to amusement parks, however in Asia – particularly Japan – they also play an important role in public transport around major metropolises.
Modern monorails are based on a single solid beam that supports and guides the train; the carriages are either suspended beneath the track, or sit on top, with their wheels straddling electricity, which is carried on a ‘third rail’ either within, or connected to, the main beam. Conductive shoes on the carriages then transmit the current to the train.
The straddle-beam design is the most widely used. The carriages have pneumatic rubber tyres, which drive along the top of an ‘I’-shaped beam. To prevent side-to-side swaying of the train, a series of smaller tyres clamp around the beam, providing general stability and also helping to guide the carriages.
Suspended monorails, meanwhile, hang underneath the track. The design can be a where the cars hang from the underside of the ‘I’ beam, or alternatively the wheels can sit inside a hollow steel girder. In the latter case, the wheels are completely enclosed, protecting them from the elements and making the train extremely difficult to derail.
In fact, monorails are one of the safest forms of transport. The elevated track minimises interaction with traffic and pedestrians, eliminating the need for crossings, and derailment is very rare. They are energy efficient too and their rubber tyres produce the beam. They are usually powered by simple inversion of the straddle monorail, much less noise pollution than the metal wheels of conventional trains.