Today, oil by the barrel. The college of Houston"s college of engineering presents this series about the equipments that do our civilization run, and also the civilization whose ingenuity developed them.

This summer that 2006, all America watches the spiraling cost of a barrel that oil. As we burn the stuff faster and faster, the grows much more precious, and the world warms to its frenzied consumption. However to check out the oil barrel together an artifact, fairly than one emblem of our troubled times, let"s check out Robert Hardwicke"s 1958 book The Oilman"s Barrel.

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The wooden barrel was a 3rd-century roman invention and also he shows exactly how the native barrel ended up being a unit of measure. But, alas, the background of units is a terrible morass. Steps of weights and volumes, because that example, room constantly perplexed with one another, since so many things weigh really nearly the same as water. The gallon was defined in middle ages times so it would stand for over sixty thousand seed of wheat. That would certainly be a unit the weight, no volume. By various accidents of history, the gallon eventually happened defined together a volume, however. The American and British gallons room 231, and also 277, cubic inches.

Containers because that practical commerce had to be much bigger than a gallon, so barrels had long since been developed, and they eventually took six an easy sizes: the firkin, the kilderkin, the barrel, the hogshead, the butt, and the tun (spelled t-U-n). The dimension of each varies somewhat. Lock were characterized slightly in different ways for wine, beer, grain, and so forth, and definitions adjusted from country to country. Yet a firkin is generally nine gallons and also the tun is 252 gallons. That means that a tun filled through water is very close to 2000 pounds -- hence our term ton (spelled t-O-n.)

The beer barrel organized 42 us gallons, and also they were very first used to delivery oil in the 19th century. That"s still the dimension we express to when we speak the a barrel the oil. Yet, if oil should occur to be moved in a unit container today, it"ll be a 55-gallon steel drum, through a capacity nearer the of a hogshead 보다 a barrel.

Wooden barrels were marvels of design design. Their staves cannot be permitted to bend, for this reason they"re given an outward arch. The staves act like stone arches when you press on your sides. Instead of bending, they continue to be rigid and also transmit the pressure onto hard top and bottom plates. They permit one roll a weight that one can never lift. And, since the barrel meets the floor only at one point, it"s straightforward to steer it together it rolls.

In your time, barrels were offered to hold every little thing -- meat, gunpowder, soul -- even human being going over Niagara Falls and also living to tell that it. As the death toll amongst builders that the Panama Canal grew, the companies began using barrels to ship the cadavers ago to clinical schools in the US.

Now their main use is to save wine, beer, and also liquor. Bourbon is cured in burnt oaken barrels wherein a chemical process releases sugar from the oak, and adds a slight herbal caramel flavor. Yet the ar barrels really endure is in the abstract digital audit of our substantial consumption the oil -- also though crude oil oil never ever touches hardwood on its lengthy road come our hungry gas tanks.

I"m man Lienhard, in ~ the college of Houston, where we"re interested in the means inventive minds work.

(Theme music) R. E. Hardwicke, The Oilman"s Barrel.

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(Norman, OK: Univ. That Oklahoma Press, 1958).

Thirty-two seed of wheat makes a pence, twenty pence renders an ounce, 12 ounces, a pound and eight pounds makes a gallon. That"s 61,440 grains of wheat adds as much as a gallon that wheat. (And we know that a gallon that wheat will certainly weigh a lot much less than a gallon of water.)

Here"s a useful online background of barrels,

And here"s a page on British imperial units which different from ours,

See also, W. Curtis, The Brilliance the the Barrel. Invention & Technology, Vol 21, No. 4, Spring, 2006, pp. 36-43. (My thanks to play Bozeman, Libraries, for saying an episode from this source.)


A an equipment for shaping the metal hoops that hold a barrel together, 1892 Appleton Cyclopaedia of applied Mechanics