Time to tighten up all of the loose nuts

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Time to tighten up all of the loose nuts


A man in Poland once received an express-mail package 14 days after it was sent. Upset at how much time it took, he calculated how long it should have taken for the package to reach him. The distance between the point of dispatch and his home is 11.1 kilometers (6.9 miles), but it took 292 hours to arrive. So, the package’s average speed was .038 kilometers per hour (.024 miles per hour). He also measured the average speed of a snail - .048 kilometers per hour. Based on his calculations, the Polish man concluded that the Polish post office was slower than a snail.

Snails are synonymous with being slow. The expression “the snail crosses the sea” is a metaphor for something impossible to achieve. A conch, or “sora” in Korean, is similar to a snail. They both have one thing in common: spiral-shaped shells.

In that sense, it was a superb idea to call the water pump - which was invented by Greek mathematician Archimedes - a water screw. It is a device that scoops up water by turning a screw inside a hollow pipe.

Although water slides up only one notch per turn, the industrial revolution sprouted out from its slow movement. They are bolts and nuts. In Korean, they are called male and female screws, devices used to connect things. British mechanical engineer Henry Maudslay first began mass producing precision machines in 1797 by standardizing the space of a spiral angle, which used to be different from person to person.

Henry Phillips, an American repairman, invented the crosshead screw. At the time, a screw had one groove on its head, which made it difficult to loosen or tighten because the friction was weak. But a crosshead screw was easy to use because its frictional force was strong and it did not wear out easily. It was used in the manufacture of GM’s Cadillac sedan in 1936. The screw was eventually christened the Phillips-head and Henry Phillips became very rich thanks to the idea of cutting one more groove in a nail.

It was reported recently that a KTX train that derailed on Friday because of a loose nut. But I wonder whether safety management as a whole went loose. It’s absurd that a high-speed train that can go 300 kilometers per hour was stopped by a single nut that moves at a snail’s pace. And in this case, it is ironic that the word “nut” also refers to someone who is stupid or foolish. It seems we may have to check all the loose nuts around us and tighten them up.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Jong-kwon
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