Sunday, August 12, 2012

Driving On a Thread of Gasoline

Here's an interesting little calculation, from the new blog on quantum information at Caltech called Quantum Frontiers:
My car gets about 30 miles per gallon of gasoline. Miles per gallon has the dimensions of inverse length squared, and the reciprocal of 30 miles per gallon is roughly the area of a circle whose diameter is 0.3 mm, or about 1/100 of an inch.

That means that when I drive my car, the fuel I consume has the same volume as a thin thread stretched along the road over the distance I travel, with a thickness just a few times the width of a human hair.

That skinny little thread of gasoline is enough to keep my car going! Thinking about it reinforces one’s appreciation for the internal combustion engine.

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