Friday, 27 December 2013

Sketchy Fact #21: The Mega-est Tsunami

In 1958 a landslide in Lituya Bay Alaska produced a 516 meter (1,720 foot) tall wave, the biggest ever recorded. Five people died, but four others in two fishing boats rode the wave out of the bay and survived. Presumably, they proceeded to complete the most sincere high-five in history.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Gift-Bomb: Could Santa Really Deliver Presents to Every Kid on Earth in One Night?

This week's special Christmas article was written by guest author and University of Waterloo mechatronics engineering PhD student Arun Das.

The age old tale of Santa Claus is well known to many across the world.  At some point, we all probably believed  the story of how jolly old St. Nick, with the help of his elves, reindeer and some good ol’ fashioned magic, zipped across the earth delivering presents to all the the good little boys and girls on Christmas eve.  As we grew up, we became all-knowing adults and threw the notion of this fat, old man from the North Pole, and his infinite generosity straight into the preposterous category, right beside bad-ass wizards, talking dogs, and the questionably fashionable sweater-vest. But what if this wasn’t the case? What if Santa was real?

After all, the story of Santa Claus dates back to well before the 19th century, and we’ve figured out a lot of stuff since then. We no longer die from the common cold, have access to unlimited information at the touch of a button, and even have cars that can drive themselves around. So, it stands to reason that Santa has caught up to the times as well.  With this in mind, the Sketchy Science team set out to answer the question, “Could Santa feasibly deliver presents to the children of the world using current day technology?”. Authors have attempted to answer this question before, but we feel their approach was overly pessimistic and focused too strongly on the single Santa angle.       

When we initially started to tackle the problem, we thought of many ways to accomplish the task, including strapping presents to ICBM’s, outsourcing the entire operation to FedEx, or just getting everything shipped with Amazon Prime. Clearly, Amazon has been looking at this delivery problem, as recently they announced plans to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deliver packages. However the UAV technology is still at least a 5 years away from deployment, as the solution is currently limited by battery technology, small payload capacities, and government regulations.

To that end, we quickly disregarded the existing methods, as we felt they were too far removed from the spirit of Santa and definitely could not be accomplished in one night. We wanted to know what it would take for Santa to deliver the presents all in one go, on Christmas Eve.

After many long nights, we finally cracked it, and so, we present to you…

What would it take? Santa in 2013.

For the analysis, we make a few simplifying assumptions:

1) Each child shall receive a gift with dimensions of approximately 12 cm x 25 cm x 6 cm, and a weight of 1.5lbs.  A box of Lego easily fits this description.

2) Santa is still able to use his magic, just in moderate doses.  We assume that once the present reaches the roof or doorstep of a home, Santa’s magic is used to get the present into the house and under the tree.

3) There are approximately 1.8 billion children in the world.  We can take 32% of them to be Christian, thus yielding 608 million gifts which Santa has to deliver.  For the sake of simplicity, assume a uniform distribution of children over the world. Note that this approximation is actually the worst-case-scenario in terms of area coverage.   

4) Santa purchases all the presents ahead of time and stores them at the North Pole.  

Although the classic story of Santa has him travelling from rooftop to rooftop delivering gifts, we deemed that grossly beyond unfeasible for a science article.  Instead, we’re going to drop the presents from airplanes travelling at close to the speed of sound from 35,000 feet above the surface of the earth. Yeah, that’ll do.

How does a present get to your house?  Thanks to many recent advances in technology, we can drop the presents from the plane and autonomously glide them into the rooftops.  In fact, DARPA worked on a similar autonomous glider system... except their’s travelled at the edge of space and at 13000 mph. Engineers can build simplified, scaled down versions of these, outfitted with a simple GPS, an inertial measurement unit, and lightweight processing and battery.   The required technology is pretty much exactly like what you have in your smart phone, though I bet you didn’t know it could fly a plane.  With modern day carbon fibre and 3D printing techniques, we could build a simple glider like this weighing about 1lb.  This brings our total gift payload to 2.5 lbs, with dimensions of 15 cm x 30 cm 10cm.  

In order to carry all the presents, we will use the largest cargo plane ever engineered, the Antonov 225, which has a maximum payload of 551,000 lbs, and an average range of 10,000 km, which takes into account a decreasing payload while in flight. Given the payload, each plane could carry 220,400 gift units. Taking into account the volume, 220,400 gift units is about 1000 m3, and with a cargo hold size of 1300 m3, we should be able to fit the maximum payload with bit of room to spare.  

In the most optimal sense, we would like all the airplanes operating in parallel.  This means to deliver 608 million gifts, we need at least 2759 airplanes flying at once.  If you think that’s a lot, it’s not. These days, about 6000 planes are flying over the world at any one time.  Now the only question is if Santa could use these 2700 odd planes to deliver the presents on time.  Let’s assume a maximum deflection angle of 6 degrees from the vertical (12 degrees total), which results in a cone through which the gliders can navigate. From 35,000 ft (or about 10km), the 12 degree cone yields a 2 km diameter footprint over the ground that covers the houses which the gliders can reach for a given airplane location.  

This now becomes an optimal coverage problem, where we want to sweep the 2 km footprint over the landmass of the earth in order to deploy the gliders.  Given that the earth is 150 million km2 in area, and about 50% of that is habitable, we have to cover a total of 75 million km2 with the planes.  Using a rectilinear approximation for the sweeping area, the total distance to be covered by all the planes is 37.5 million km.   

The maximum distance each plane can travel is 10,000 km. Although the aircraft is capable of a maximum speed of 850 km/h, we will assume an average cruising speed of 500 km/h to account for the payload. If we wanted to deploy all the planes in parallel, we would need 3750 planes total, and they would be able to accomplish the task in about 20 hours. Including time zone changes, Santa actually has about 31 hours to work with, leaving some wiggle room in the schedule in case things fall behind. 

So there you have it. With a mere 3750 cargo planes, Santa could deliver gifts to all the children of the earth. But how much would all this cost? Using a safety factor of 1.5 to account for any errors in the analysis, we end up with about 5625 airplanes. Assuming a price tag on the aircraft of $150 million each, we would need $843.8 billion for the planes (though these wouldn't have to be repurchased every year).  Assuming Santa gets a bulk discount for the Lego, we’re looking at another $9.2 billion for the gifts. At about $3/gallon, the jet fuel for our fleet of planes would be another $120 million. Adding some extra for the gift gliders, airplane maintenance, and other misc costs, for a measly $1 trillion, Santa could deploy the gift giving mission and still have enough time and money left over to throw a kick ass party for the elves. To put that into perspective, in 2011, the top 10 military powers of the world spent $1.2 trillion on defense spending.

And you thought your holiday shopping was expensive.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Sketchy Fact #20: 20,000 Leagues Out of Our Element

The oceans are ridiculously under-explored. People have landed on the moon 6 times but have only been to the bottom of the ocean twice. Before 2012 when one was finally seen alive, the only reason people knew that giant squid existed was because they washed up on beaches every now and then.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Rudolph the Bioluminescent Reindeer

One of the things that has always perplexed me about Christmas is the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. As a child, I remember watching the clay-mation documentary about how Rudolph came to join Santa’s present-pushing squad, but I never stopped wondering about why that lone reindeer would come with a built-in headlight.

As it turns out, I should have spent my time wondering about the whole flying deer thing because the glowing nose is relatively easy to explain (not that that makes it any less awesome). The fact is, as solitary as Rudolph may be in the realm of reindeer, he is in fairly good company across nature at large. All kinds of plants and animals in all kinds of environments ranging from the jack-o-lantern mushroom, to the angler fish, to the cookie cutter shark are able to produce light through a process called bioluminescence.

Luminescence is often referred to as “cold light” because, compared with the incandescence that makes light bulbs work, it requires and produces little to no heat. Not only does that make it safer for the animals doing the glowing, it makes the process far more efficient. Bioluminescence is achieved when a light producing chemical called a luciferin mixes with a catalyst that produces a chemical reaction (called a luciferase) in the presence of oxygen. Luciferins can be any number of naturally occurring chemicals. For example, the compound coelenterazine is responsible for much of the bioluminescence that occurs in the ocean.

The question of why some animals give off light is often more challenging to answer than the question of how they do it. For example, why would a single-celled plankton glow when it is disturbed by a fish? It seems like giving up your position in an ocean full of things that want to eat you is about the worst thing you can do. A number of explanations for bioluminescence exist, however.

In the case of glowing plankton, some scientists advocate the “burglar alarm theory.” The idea is that, by glowing when attacked, plankton alert nearby predators to the presence of the smaller fish that are trying to eat them. As the old saying goes: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Other uses of bioluminescence include communication (nothing helps you find a mate like lighting up a crowded room), locating food (nature’s flashlight), attracting prey (who doesn’t want to find out what that glowing thing in the dark corner is?), self-defense (when in doubt, blind everyone.), or even camouflage (when viewed from below in the ocean, a glowing belly can help you blend in with the sun).

This is all well and good, but it doesn’t do much to explain our old friend Rudolph. How exactly, you might be wondering, does a reindeer join the ranks of glow worms and plankton? There are actually a few possible explanations. The first is that Rudolph isn’t actually the one doing the glowing. Many animals use the light given off by others (usually bacteria) by allowing them to live on or in their bodies. It could be that Rudolph just has a very convenient bacterial sinus infection that has become a symbiotic relationship. Another possibility is that Rudolph is just the first in a new evolutionary line of reindeer that have adapted to 6 months of darkness at the North Pole by developing nose-mounted spotlights to help them find food.

There is also a slightly more malevolent explanation. It could be that Santa, for all his good qualities, is also a mad-scientist with no scruples about playing God. Maybe, faced with another dark and stormy Christmas Eve, Santa and his elves felt the need to genetically engineer a reindeer that could guide them through the black abyss. Surprisingly, this idea wouldn’t even be a new one. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester NY, USA have engineered cats that glow in the dark to help them study gene implantation and resistance to feline HIV. Other researchers are hopeful that one day we can replace inefficient streetlights with bioluminescent trees that light our way home. Who is to say Santa hasn’t simply repurposed the idea for more selfish ends?

So there you have it. This Christmas morning as you tear open the presents Santa left you, maybe stop and take moment to think about all the failed experiments that were probably tossed in the bio-waste bin at North Pole Laboratories. That jolly bastard makes me sick sometimes.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Sketchy Fact #19: Beetle-Juice

Shellac is a naturally occurring varnish secreted by the Lac Beetle. Until the 1940’s it was the only suitable finish for bowling lanes.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Supernovae: The Possibly True Story of the Christmas Star

It should come as no shock to anyone to say that science often makes trouble for religion. Over the eons, people have been jailed, tortured, and killed for questioning the lessons in The Good Book. Occasionally though, science can fit nicely into a biblical story; and in the spirit of the holiday season we thought we could explore a fun topic that blends facts and folklore.

Anyone who has ever heard the nativity story describing the birth of Jesus (or has seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) knows about the Christmas Star. On the night that the protagonist of the New Testament was born a star appeared in the eastern sky over Bethlehem that guided the three magi (read wise-men) to the first ever Christmas, complete with presents. But how can a star just appear?

We generally don’t think of the night sky as something that changes. The stars move too slowly for us to perceive in real time and the patterns they make are so fixed that we have named them and written stories about the characters they depict. It’s all a lie though. The night sky is dynamic, and nothing can change things up quicker than the events known as supernovae.

Supernovae are the biggest things in the universe that we know about. They occur when a star many times bigger than our own sun (8-15 times bigger is a generally accepted estimate) dies. As a big star burns up the last of its fuel, nuclear fusion produces heavy elements in its core. It’s an interesting fact that everything in the universe that isn’t made of hydrogen or helium (mountains, trees, your desk, your lunch, your body, etc.) owes its existence to a star that exploded once upon a time.

When heavy elements accumulate in its core a star begins to collapse in on itself. Once things reach a critical density, known as the Chandrasekhar limit, the bomb goes off. Most of the material gets flung off into space and what remains is called a neutron star. Neutron stars themselves are amazing. They are tiny by star standards (20km across on average), but they are the densest things we know of, other than black holes. One teaspoon of neutron star would weigh 400 million tons, or about as much as the mass of all humans.

When a big star dies, the explosion is bigger than anything you have the ability to imagine. Supernovae can destroy worlds. They release more energy in an instant than the sun will produce in its entire lifetime. Supernovae outshine entire galaxies in the night sky and one in 1054 was so bright that it was visible in the middle of the day for over a month. Fortunately for us there are no stars big enough and close enough to threaten us with their inevitable boom, but there are plenty of chances to enjoy the light show from a safe distance.

A supernova happens about once every 50 years in a galaxy the size of our Milky Way (about once per second in the universe at large). They usually appear only as a new point of light among the countless stars in the sky, but occasionally they stand out.

The religious website “Answers in Genesis” lists a supernova as one possible explanation for the Christmas Star, and they aren’t the only ones. It has long been thought that the star that allegedly hung in the sky over Bethlehem was in fact an explosion of literally biblical proportions.

That star eventually inspired the ones that adorn Chirstmas trees the world over. So this December, as you take in the festive air and admire a finely decorated tree, take some time to appreciate that the focal point might just symbolize the most badass event in all of creation.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Sketchy Fact #18: Fashion-1, Medicine-0

The first synthetic dye for clothing was invented accidentally in 1856 by William Perkin. He was trying create a cure for malaria but kept staining his clothes with failed medicine.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Immortal Fruitcake: Can We Make Food Last Forever?

Few foods are as closely connected to Christmas as fruitcake, and few foods are as deeply dreaded. To be sure, fruitcake is a strange food. It combines the healthy and nutritious (cherries, mangos, cranberries, etc), with the unhealthy and delicious (sugar, butter, etc.), and coats the whole mess in a tantalizingly glistening layer of alcohol. Put that way, fruitcake shouldn’t have such a bad reputation. Part of the problem with fruitcake, however is that most recipes require you to bake the cake about a month before you plan on eating it. The general rule with preparing one of these masterpieces is “the older the better” as each day you brush on a little more booze to keep the cake moist. An unintended consequence of the liquor, however, is that fruitcake is known to last a really, truly, ridiculously long time.

The Virginia Museum of Science is one of the only sources online that dares to put a figure on the lifespan of fruitcake. They set the expiration date for a properly made cake stored in an airtight container at 25 years. The reason for the inflated lifespan is that fruitcake is by its very nature inhospitable to bacteria, and bacteria are the reason that all foods spoil.

Bacteria cannot survive to breakdown fruitcake because they cannot penetrate the alcohol that encases it. Alcohol kills bacteria by dissolving cell membranes and denaturing the proteins bacteria need to function. Eventually, though, alcohol itself begins to break down and bacteria begin, disappointingly, to penetrate the boozey barrier. Certainly, 25 years is a very long time for a cake to remain edible, but what would you need to do to make one last forever?

Food preservation is something that humans have been working on since we first learned about food poisoning, and we have gotten pretty good at it. Techniques abound but they all work on the same principle: slow down or remove any bacteria or bacterial processes. The most common method is refrigeration which uses cold temperatures to slow down the metabolisms of bacteria and allows food to last much longer. Refrigeration is great for foods that rapidly spoil like milk or meat, lengthening their edibility window from a few hours to a week or more, but it won’t do much to make our fruitcake truly immortal.

Another great option if you want food to last a really long time is canning. Canning involves heating or boiling food at a temperature sufficient to kill bacteria (usually to at least 66°C/150°F). Once the bacteria are dead, you seal the can to prevent any new microbes from staking a claim. All that is left is to put the can away until you’re ready to enjoy its contents. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States has analyzed 100 year old canned fruit from Antarctic expedition and detected no microbial growth, advising that as long as the can itself is not compromised, the food remains edible after a century.  The only drawback to canning is that heating your food can significantly change its taste and texture.

Canning is definitely a great option, but it isn’t the only one that will take a fruitcake to the doorstep of eternity. Dehydrating and Freeze Drying are two more options that work on the principle that bacteria need water to function. Dehydrating is the easier of the two processes. All it requires is that the food be surrounded with sufficiently dry air to draw out all the moisture. The resulting food will last a very long time (ad infinitum if properly stored), but who wants a dry fruitcake? To overcome the obvious shortcomings of moistureless cake, we can freeze dry. To freeze dry our fruitcake, all we need to do it freeze it (which many people will tell you actually improves a fruitcake) and place it in a strong vacuum. The vacuum causes the water in the food to sublimate (turn directly from solid to vapor) and increased its shelf-life indefinitely. To reconstitute our fruitcake all we need to do is add water and microwave. This process is more ideally suited to the fruit portion, rather than the cake.

We now understand a few ways that we can launch a fruitcake into the future, but each has its drawbacks. If we want to eat our fruitcake 10,000 years from now and have it taste pretty much the same as it does today, we have to get nuclear…

Food irradiation can kill bacteria without significantly altering food. All you need to do is seal the food in plastic and zap it with a healthy dose of radioactivity. The result is the most sterile fruitcake possible as long as the seal never breaks. The only reason irradiation is not pursued more actively is that people seem to have a problem putting the words “nuclear radiation” and “food” in the same sentence. But if our goal is to pass a fruitcake on to our great-great-great….great-great-grandchildren, a little radiation seems like it is their problem, not ours. Just include a note that says wasting food puts them on the naughty list.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Sketchy Fact #17: The Case of the Missing Oceans

Venus used to have oceans, but a runaway greenhouse effect heated the planet up to 482 degrees Celsius (900 Fahrenheit) and they evaporated into space.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Beards and Staches and Sideburns, Oh My! The Luxuriant Science of Facial Hair

Each year men around the world take up their razors against a sea of stubble to participate in what has become an incredible demonstration of crowdsourcing and teamwork. These men grow mustaches and raise tens of millions of dollars for prostate cancer research. The world has come to know this event as Movember.

As noble a cause as Movember may seem, it does have one unfortunate side effect. Try as they might, some “Mo Bros” will inevitably fall short of their facial hair goals, even if their donations do not reflect this. As a service to the follicley-challenged, we at Sketchy Science thought we would attempt to explain why some men will end up looking more like Matthew Broderick than Magnum P.I. come the end of the month.

Facial hair is a product of hormones and genetics. Testosterone is the primary culprit in terms of facial, chest, and all other body hair in both men and women. The level of testosterone in your body is dependent on a number of things including biology, and environmental factors. As we saw in our discussion of epigenetics, even the lives of your recent ancestors might impact your DNA and subsequently alter your ability to grow a mo. Diet also plays a key role with zinc and magnesium needed to get the testosterone manufacturing process started and cholesterol needed to produce the actual hormone. Foods like eggs, spinach, nuts, avocados, and balsamic vinegar are all fine choices if your want to improve your follicle fecundity. Others like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage will help by lowering levels of counteracting hormones like estrogen.

Testosterone acts like a messenger from your body to your hair follicles. In the simplest possible terms, testosterone antagonizes the follicle and tells it to grow, grow, grow. It physically changes the “peach fuzz” many of us are born with, making it thicker, coarser, and darker. From there, you’re off to the races.

Unfortunately, you may be stuck in the gate if your genetics don’t cooperate. Studies have revealed that Testosterone isn’t the sole factor involved in facial hair growth. Research involving Japanese men (a group that is generally less able to grow facial hair) has shown that even men with little to no visible facial hair can have levels of testosterone equal to or in excess of their bearded brethren. The explanation lies in a person’s genetics. Testosterone can yell at your hair follicles to grow until it’s throat is sore but if your DNA doesn’t allow you to respond, you will remain baby-faced. Genetics help determine what is called your testosterone sensitivity. High testosterone sensitivity is not without its drawbacks, however. It has been linked to male pattern baldness in addition to facial hair growth, possibly explaining why Bruce Willis is considered a manly action-hero.

Recent research has also shown that, beyond being a good tool for fundraising, a certain amount of facial hair might also help you attract a mate (at least if you’re Caucasian). A team of Australian biologists evaluated ratings of attractiveness and masculinity for men with no facial hair, light stubble, heavy stubble, and full beards. Results indicated that heavy stubble was the most attractive condition, with full beard, light stubble, and clean shaven being less attractive. Men with full beards were rated highest in terms of masculinity. The researchers suggest that facial hair might serve as a signal regarding reproductive health and the ability of a man to protect his family. It needs to be noted, however that all the men being evaluated were of European descent as well has 80% of the women who did the evaluating. Attractiveness ratings were also impacted by the stage of the woman evaluator's  reproductive cycle, supporting the evolutionary explanation offered by the researchers.

Whether or not you can grow a beard Karl Marx would be jealous of, Movember represents a great cause. It is important to remember that the quality of one’s facial hair is far less important than the quality of one’s intentions. Cancer research is a good and noble thing and we at Sketchy Science wish all Mo Bros and Mo Sistas good luck in their fundraising as we close in on the end of this happily hairy month.

If you want to donate to this worth-while cause you can give through the mo spaces of:

Friday, 22 November 2013

Sketchy Fact #16: Let Your Backbone Slide

The Hero shrew and the Thor Shrew are the only two known animals with interlocking vertebrae. Their backs are reportedly strong enough to support the weight of a fully grown man. That would be like a person piggybacking a blue whale.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Chinooks: The Good, the Bad, and the Windy

There are a lot of different ways in which weather can ruin your day. You can suffer through ridiculous heat waves, frigid cold, hurricanes, tornadoes, and hale the size of soft balls. The worst part about it all is that predicting the specific behavior of weather patterns is difficult verging on impossible. The last thing you want is to be surprised when you walk out your front door… That is of course unless you live on the Eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in North America.

The weather on the leeward side of the continental divide is variable to say the least. In Canada, residents of Alberta can vouch for the fact that summers are short and mild while winter can go on for decades and flash freeze the hair on your head. Indeed, the people of the prairie come from a hardy stock. Occasionally, though some of them get to cheat their way out of winter for a few days at a time.

Chinooks (also known as foehn winds) are a Calgarian’s best friend. Over the course of a few hours, these warm winds can rush in from the mountains and lift the temperature from sub-zero to nearly tropical.  Examples of potent Chinooks seem to break all the rules of Canadian winter. During the winter of 1962 the town of Pincher Creek, Alberta was greeted by a Chinook that caused the mercury to rise by an astounding 41°C (74°F) in one hour resulting in a day-time low of -19°C and a high of 22 (-2 to 72°F). In February 1992, Claresholm, Alberta experienced a high of 24°C (75°F), one of the highest February temperatures ever recorded in Canada. These Chinooks are certainly impressive, but bragging rights in the warm winter wind department go to the town of Loma, Montana where on January 15, 1972 the temperature fluctuated by 58°C (103°F) from a low of -48 to a high of 9°C (-54 to 49°F).

For those of us who live beyond the reach of Chinooks, this is all clearly unfair. Obviously the people in Alberta and Montana and the handful of other places along the continent’s spine that experience nature’s equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail, Free” card have made some deal with Satan. Alas no, the science behind Chinooks is relatively straightforward. 

As warm, moist air from the Pacific rushes up the western edge of the Rockies, temperatures fall and water is dropped off in the form of snow. The remaining dry, cold air crests the mountains and (in the manner of cooled gases) begins to rapidly fall down the leeward side. As the air falls it gets crunched together (becomes denser) and the temperature rises dramatically. It is the same thing that happens in a piston when air compressed so rapidly that it heats up to the point of exploding, only far more agreeable for people who get in the way.

Rapidly condensing air does have its side effects, it must be said. Though it might not feel like it on the level of everyday experience, wind is very heavy stuff.  If you weighed a column of air 1 meter (3.28 feet) in diameter that extended to the top of the atmosphere you could come up with a figure of about 10 tons (22,000 lbs). Consequently, as cold air plummets down the side of a mountain, it tends to pick up speed. Chinooks can reach hurricane speeds. On November 19, 1962 a Chinook blasted through Lethbridge, Alberta at a speed of 171 km/hr (106 mph).

Summer weather in January is a perk that is not taken lightly in the great white north, but having your house blow away will put you at a powerful disadvantage when the arctic air mass reasserts itself, as it inevitably does. There may be a lot of give and take when it comes to Chinooks, but a little heat in the dead of winter is a pretty cool thing.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Sketchy Fact #15: The Windiest Place... In the Wuhrld

Mount Washington in New Hampshire, USA is the windiest place on Earth. The highest wind speed ever recorder there was 372 km/hr (271 mph) in 1934. The guy who went outside to read the instruments was tied to the building with a rope.