What-If 0126: "Stairs"

What if there was a forum for discussing these?

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

User avatar
Rombobjörn
Posts: 147
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:56 am UTC
Location: right between the past and the future

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Rombobjörn » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:27 pm UTC

SuperSteve wrote:"If you made an elevator that would go to space (like the one you mentioned in the billion-story building) and built a staircase up..." you wouldn't need to carry the butter up with you on the stairs. You could send it up on the elevator.

Well, what if you can't? Why are you climbing the stairs in the first place, instead of going up on the elevator? Maybe ...

She lives on the 30 000 000'th floor uptown.
The elevator's broken down.
So I walk one, two flight, three flight four,
five, six, seven flight, eight flight more ...

armandoalvarez
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu May 03, 2012 1:39 am UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby armandoalvarez » Mon Jan 26, 2015 3:00 am UTC

a) All of you who say, "Where I come from, butter comes like this . . ." should list where you're from. I'm from the United States. Our butter comes in the sticks drawn by Randall, which in turn come in the sort of package shown by mathmannix . We also have little plastic cylindrical cartons. I don't use them/my family never bought them, because I think they're more expensive and they're harder to use for baking because the sticks come with lines to indicate where to cut for a tablespoon (14.8ml), and the sticks themselves are four fluid ounces (and oddly four ounces of weight) so you don't normally have to get a measuring cup to use them in a recipe. When I've been to other people's houses and they use it, they use them more for spreading on toast, but then you always see crumbs in the container from the other people's toast.

Those of you who don't have sticks of butter, what does it come in? Cubes?

b) Regarding the slinky, can a slinky go down a spiraling staircase? If not, how would you construct it? Build in a great circle around the earth?

User avatar
Neil_Boekend
Posts: 3220
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:35 am UTC
Location: Yes.

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Neil_Boekend » Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:26 am UTC

armandoalvarez wrote:a) All of you who say, "Where I come from, butter comes like this . . ." should list where you're from. I'm from the United States. Our butter comes in the sticks drawn by Randall, which in turn come in the sort of package shown by mathmannix . We also have little plastic cylindrical cartons. I don't use them/my family never bought them, because I think they're more expensive and they're harder to use for baking because the sticks come with lines to indicate where to cut for a tablespoon (14.8ml), and the sticks themselves are four fluid ounces (and oddly four ounces of weight) so you don't normally have to get a measuring cup to use them in a recipe. When I've been to other people's houses and they use it, they use them more for spreading on toast, but then you always see crumbs in the container from the other people's toast.

Those of you who don't have sticks of butter, what does it come in? Cubes?

I am from yhe Netherlands. We have baking or frying butter in 250 gr blocks (approx 0.55 avoirdupois pounds). Buttor for on bread is different stuff and comes in 250 gr tubs.
armandoalvarez wrote:b) Regarding the slinky, can a slinky go down a spiraling staircase? If not, how would you construct it?

It would probably crash into the outer wall and stop (or drop off the open staircase).
You'd either have to angle the staircase, modify your slinkie or use a complex electromagnet system to draw it back to the center (assuming a ferromagnetic slinkie).
Mikeski wrote:A "What If" update is never late. Nor is it early. It is posted precisely when it should be.

patzer's signature wrote:
flicky1991 wrote:I'm being quoted too much!

he/him/his

Whatthen
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:52 am UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Whatthen » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:59 am UTC

I'm from Germany and our butter also comes in blocks of 250g. These are wrapped in a single layer of paper, so waste is minimal.
molkerei-weihenstephan de/presse/4-blickfang-auf-dem-fruehstueckstisch/
I wanted to attach a picture link and as often is the case when doing follow-on research of what-ifs stumbled on stranger and stranger things...
This blog entry is about the "proper" way to scrape butter from the block:
cucina-casalinga.blogspot de/2009/11/butter-ordnung.html

(first post, so no links allowed, add "." yourself)

CharlieP
Posts: 397
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:22 am UTC
Location: Nottingham, UK

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby CharlieP » Mon Jan 26, 2015 1:16 pm UTC

Higure wrote:Usually, Randall Munroe is good at using SI units, but this time he failed with the butter (a stick of four fluid ounces isn't standard in my part of the world). So here's a conversion for you all: daily dietary allowance of 2000 calories: 3 sticks = 323 grams


If you want to be "good at using SI units", surely your daily dietary allowance is around 8,000 kJ? :)
This is my signature. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

User avatar
mathmannix
Posts: 1453
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:12 pm UTC
Location: Washington, DC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby mathmannix » Mon Jan 26, 2015 2:29 pm UTC

armandoalvarez wrote:a) All of you who say, "Where I come from, butter comes like this . . ." should list where you're from. I'm from the United States. Our butter comes in the sticks drawn by Randall, which in turn come in the sort of package shown by mathmannix . We also have little plastic cylindrical cartons. I don't use them/my family never bought them, because I think they're more expensive and they're harder to use for baking because the sticks come with lines to indicate where to cut for a tablespoon (14.8ml), and the sticks themselves are four fluid ounces (and oddly four ounces of weight) so you don't normally have to get a measuring cup to use them in a recipe. When I've been to other people's houses and they use it, they use them more for spreading on toast, but then you always see crumbs in the container from the other people's toast.


Although I realize that margarine can come in sticks and butter (whipped butter) in tubs (although I think this one is a new thing?), we have always bought sticks of butter (and sometimes margarine, but it's not as good) for baking, and tubs of margarine/oleo/"Country Crock"/"Shedd's Spread". This is used for spreading with a knife, almost exclusively on toast.

And oh yeah, I'm from the country where you can sometimes find deep-fried sticks of butter on a stick at state fairs.
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

DanMcQueen
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:22 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby DanMcQueen » Mon Jan 26, 2015 6:44 pm UTC

But I wanted to know how long it would take to ride an escalator to space.

slinky + escalator = win

User avatar
Yakk
Poster with most posts but no title.
Posts: 11129
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:27 pm UTC
Location: E pur si muove

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:36 pm UTC

So, Randall didn't do the elevator, nor did he cover the Tsiolkovsky butter equation issue.

No reason we cannot.

We have 100,000 km of stairs to climb. We have a backpack and a large supply of butter and water at the base of the tower.

To start with, assume calories burned is 2000/day plus Weight*X / m for some constant X. This means we can "climb cheaper" at lower gravity, at least on the way up.

How much cheaper is it to descend than ascend? Past the half way point we run into problems, as we are now going "down". We can punt by simply calculating the requirements to the 50,000 km spot (half way) at least as an initial pass.

We clearly cannot carry all the food required to reach 50,000 km on our back. And with stairs, dragging it is impractical.

With a fast google, I find that at least one hiker limits themselves to 30% of their body mass in supplies. https://answers.yahoo.com/question/inde ... 315AAFDNJl

That is a nice round number.

Bah - we need the cost to go down hill to work out how to go up, as we need to go up with supplies, set up the cache, then come back down without starving.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

User avatar
mathmannix
Posts: 1453
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:12 pm UTC
Location: Washington, DC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby mathmannix » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:36 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:With a fast google, I find that at least one hiker limits themselves to 30% of their body mass in supplies. https://answers.yahoo.com/question/inde ... 315AAFDNJl

That is a nice round number.


Not to mention (did anyone mention it?) that the professional stair-climbers (or tower-runners) are sprinting, and not carrying a 50-pound* rucksack. If somebody is carrying a 50-pound rucksack over a long distance, vertical or otherwise, they're probably marching, maybe jogging at a slow pace, but certainly not sprinting.

(* - okay, for me it's more like 65 pounds)
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

JeffR23
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:16 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby JeffR23 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:49 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
Bah - we need the cost to go down hill to work out how to go up, as we need to go up with supplies, set up the cache, then come back down without starving.


You go back down sliding the banister.

(Okay, probably something somewhat safer than that involving a rope harness and some kind of friction ratchet at the bottom to slow up from terminal velocity to zero at only a couple of Gs, but the principle is the same.)

User avatar
Yakk
Poster with most posts but no title.
Posts: 11129
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:27 pm UTC
Location: E pur si muove

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:35 pm UTC

Instead of a bannister, you could hang a rope and pully. Go down, and have the rope pull stuff (supplies) up for you.

If each such rope loop was relatively short, you could still use it to ferry supplies up the ladder as you go down.

Allowing that would increase your carrying capacity massively: instead of carrying 30% of your body weight, you could do as well as carrying 30% as "marching food" until expended, then go down the pullies and "lift" nearly 100% of your body weight up a total distance roughly equal to the distance you climbed. Basically use the work you burned climbing to do the work of lifting. The pully-lifts can be levered (lifting half as much twice as far) if needed.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5487
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:24 am UTC

I don't see why dragging on stairs is more impractical than dragging anywhere else. I'm assuming the friction of pulling the load over every stair is the concern, but I'd think simply having the bottom of the butter-container you're dragging be long, flat, and rigid (like a sled) would smooth over that problem, pun intended.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Neil_Boekend
Posts: 3220
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:35 am UTC
Location: Yes.

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Neil_Boekend » Tue Jan 27, 2015 10:02 am UTC

You could use the steps as a part of a crude ratchet mechanism. That way if your rope slips you don't have to drag the sled up again.
Mikeski wrote:A "What If" update is never late. Nor is it early. It is posted precisely when it should be.

patzer's signature wrote:
flicky1991 wrote:I'm being quoted too much!

he/him/his

elfstone
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:25 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby elfstone » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:29 pm UTC

LOL... Normally randall is quite good, and I guess normally, someone picks up errors faster than me, but I didn't see anyone complainging about his calorie-fuckup.

A normal person uses around 1500.000 kalories per day, that's why you normally use kcal as a unit. Problem is, that a lot of people say "calories" when they acutally mean "kilo calories". Should not happen to a physicist. And this is so much worse than using kcal instead of KJ.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5487
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:50 pm UTC

The capitalization matters. 1 Calorie = 1000 calories.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Rombobjörn
Posts: 147
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:56 am UTC
Location: right between the past and the future

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Rombobjörn » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:36 pm UTC

elfstone wrote:A normal person uses around 1500.000 kalories per day, that's why you normally use kcal as a unit. Problem is, that a lot of people say "calories" when they acutally mean "kilo calories".

That has become so pervasive that I think we just have to accept that a food calorie is a kilocalorie (sigh). If you want to fight it, don't tell people to say "kilocalories". Try to get them to abandon calories and use joules instead.


armandoalvarez wrote:Those of you who don't have sticks of butter, what does it come in? Cubes?

Here are some packages of Swedish butter. The pictures are not to scale but the weight is written on all of them. (Some ignorant designer has specified the weight in gauss and kelvin-gauss but they mean grams and kilograms.)
Image Image Image Image

Margarine to replace butter in cooking and baking:
Image Image

Margarine for spreading on bread:
Image Image

User avatar
PinkShinyRose
Posts: 835
Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:54 pm UTC
Location: the Netherlands

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Wed Jan 28, 2015 12:43 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:The capitalization matters. 1 Calorie = 1000 calories.

He wrote 'calories', not 'Calories'. I don't think the 'Calories' for 'kilocalories' is used much in writing though, probably due to the ambiguity. How far can we take this? 1 Calorie=1 kilocalorie=1 megacalorie=1 gigacalorie=1 milliCalorie=1 microCalorie? Why can't nutritionists just learn to use proper units, instead of abusing them until they become ambiguous? For language in general it's annoying, but for units it's ridiculous.

Zinho
Posts: 102
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2011 3:23 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Zinho » Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:11 am UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:Why can't nutritionists just learn to use proper units, instead of abusing them until they become ambiguous? For language in general it's annoying, but for units it's ridiculous.

Probably for the same reason that bathroom scales read kg instead of N but still are advertized as giving "weight"- no woman wants to be 700 of anything. Since those numbers are only off from what they should be by a factor of ~10 and we can't seem to correct the situation, I don't see nutritionists giving up their "dietary Calories" anytime soon.

User avatar
Jorpho
Posts: 6291
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:31 am UTC
Location: Canada

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Jorpho » Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:06 am UTC

Aside from House of Leaves, this also brings to mind Ted Chiang's Nebula-award-winning "Tower of Babylon", which does a really interesting job of covering the logistics of climbing (and maintaining) a massively high tower. (Of course, some of the physics are made up completely – that's what makes it a good story.)

I kind of wanted to read William Sleator's House of Stairs, but could never find a copy.

User avatar
PinkShinyRose
Posts: 835
Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:54 pm UTC
Location: the Netherlands

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Thu Jan 29, 2015 12:56 am UTC

Zinho wrote:
PinkShinyRose wrote:Why can't nutritionists just learn to use proper units, instead of abusing them until they become ambiguous? For language in general it's annoying, but for units it's ridiculous.

Probably for the same reason that bathroom scales read kg instead of N but still are advertized as giving "weight"- no woman wants to be 700 of anything. Since those numbers are only off from what they should be by a factor of ~10 and we can't seem to correct the situation, I don't see nutritionists giving up their "dietary Calories" anytime soon.

I think the problem with the scales is mostly that they advertise as measuring "weight" instead of mass. I think people are generally more interested in their mass than what their weight happens to be in their current location. Unless they are ballet dancers or other people that need to be lifted regularly.

For the calories I'm mostly wondering why they started abusing "calories", they seem unlikely to stop now they started it (at least in speech, in writing I get the idea that kcal is far more common).

armandoalvarez
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu May 03, 2012 1:39 am UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby armandoalvarez » Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:14 am UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:
Zinho wrote:
PinkShinyRose wrote:Why can't nutritionists just learn to use proper units, instead of abusing them until they become ambiguous? For language in general it's annoying, but for units it's ridiculous.

Probably for the same reason that bathroom scales read kg instead of N but still are advertized as giving "weight"- no woman wants to be 700 of anything. Since those numbers are only off from what they should be by a factor of ~10 and we can't seem to correct the situation, I don't see nutritionists giving up their "dietary Calories" anytime soon.

I think the problem with the scales is mostly that they advertise as measuring "weight" instead of mass. I think people are generally more interested in their mass than what their weight happens to be in their current location. Unless they are ballet dancers or other people that need to be lifted regularly.

For the calories I'm mostly wondering why they started abusing "calories", they seem unlikely to stop now they started it (at least in speech, in writing I get the idea that kcal is far more common).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17116702

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5487
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:53 am UTC

You know, the discussion in that link about the calorie's origins as the amount of heat needed to raise a metric amount of water by a metric unit of temperature, and how it seems more popular in metric-using countries to measure food energy in joules rather than calories, suddenly makes me surprised that there is not a metric temperature scale that has a unit as the amount of temperature something like water increases by when absorbing one joule of energy.

Of course now that I think about it I'm even more surprised that the metric unit of temperature is not expressed in terms of energy in joules and entropy in bits.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
PinkShinyRose
Posts: 835
Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:54 pm UTC
Location: the Netherlands

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:05 am UTC

armandoalvarez wrote:
PinkShinyRose wrote:
Zinho wrote:
PinkShinyRose wrote:Why can't nutritionists just learn to use proper units, instead of abusing them until they become ambiguous? For language in general it's annoying, but for units it's ridiculous.

Probably for the same reason that bathroom scales read kg instead of N but still are advertized as giving "weight"- no woman wants to be 700 of anything. Since those numbers are only off from what they should be by a factor of ~10 and we can't seem to correct the situation, I don't see nutritionists giving up their "dietary Calories" anytime soon.

I think the problem with the scales is mostly that they advertise as measuring "weight" instead of mass. I think people are generally more interested in their mass than what their weight happens to be in their current location. Unless they are ballet dancers or other people that need to be lifted regularly.

For the calories I'm mostly wondering why they started abusing "calories", they seem unlikely to stop now they started it (at least in speech, in writing I get the idea that kcal is far more common).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17116702

Okay, I was wrong, the unit has been messy since the first decades it was used, let's just finish the transition to joules. It's odd that we still give diet advice in kcal anyway.

GuesssWho
Posts: 19
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:29 am UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby GuesssWho » Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:36 am UTC

I loved the House of Leaves reference. And the significance is that someone in the old days found a staircase where the house was later built--there used to be a S that looked like F, you know.

CtrlAltDel
The member formerly known as CtrolAltDel
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:54 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby CtrlAltDel » Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:27 am UTC

armandoalvarez wrote:a) All of you who say, "Where I come from, butter comes like this . . ." should list where you're from. I'm from the United States. Our butter comes in the sticks drawn by Randall, which in turn come in the sort of package shown by mathmannix . We also have little plastic cylindrical cartons. I don't use them/my family never bought them, because I think they're more expensive and they're harder to use for baking because the sticks come with lines to indicate where to cut for a tablespoon (14.8ml), and the sticks themselves are four fluid ounces (and oddly four ounces of weight) so you don't normally have to get a measuring cup to use them in a recipe.


It's even more complicated than that. In the US, there are two standard shapes for a stick of butter. East of the Mississippi, a stick of butter is 4.75 by 1.25 inches. West of the Mississippi, each stick is 3.25 by 1.5 inches. For both, there are four sticks to a package, although the arrangement of the sticks in the package is different. Also, while the markings on the label divide each stick into 8 tablespoons, there actually about 9 tablespoons in a stick of butter.

User avatar
freezeblade
Posts: 1406
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2012 5:11 pm UTC
Location: Oakland

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby freezeblade » Fri Jan 30, 2015 9:19 pm UTC

CtrlAltDel wrote:It's even more complicated than that. In the US, there are two standard shapes for a stick of butter. East of the Mississippi, a stick of butter is 4.75 by 1.25 inches. West of the Mississippi, each stick is 3.25 by 1.5 inches. For both, there are four sticks to a package, although the arrangement of the sticks in the package is different. Also, while the markings on the label divide each stick into 8 tablespoons, there actually about 9 tablespoons in a stick of butter.


It's even more complicated than that
On the west coast, "organic" butters are usually packaged in the "east" shape, longer and thinner, where the "conventional" butters are packaged in typical "west" shape.
Belial wrote:I am not even in the same country code as "the mood for this shit."

User avatar
PinkShinyRose
Posts: 835
Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:54 pm UTC
Location: the Netherlands

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Sat Jan 31, 2015 12:49 pm UTC

We can assume Randall uses the Eastern variety right? Or does inorganic butter in the East come in West shape?

User avatar
SuicideJunkie
Posts: 431
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2015 2:40 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0126: "Stairs"

Postby SuicideJunkie » Fri Feb 27, 2015 8:39 pm UTC

Inorganic butter would probably go well with Beret-guy's lug-nut scones.


Return to “What If?”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests