Link1: Nuclear Potato Cannons; Link2: We Live in the 19th Century

I could like to every single one of the “what if” posts by Randall Munroe:

The official record for fastest manmade object is the Helios 2 probe, which reached about 70 km/s in a close swing around the Sun. But it’s possible the actual holder of that title is a two-ton metal manhole cover.

The cover sat atop a shaft at an underground nuclear test site operated by Los Alamos as part of Operation Plumbbob. When the one-kiloton nuke went off below, the facility effectively became a nuclear potato cannon, giving the cap a gigantic kick. A high-speed camera trained on the lid caught only one frame of it moving upward before it vanished—which means it was moving at a minimum of 66 km/s. The cap was never found.

66 km/s is about six times escape velocity, but contrary to the linked blog’s speculation, it’s unlikely the cap ever reached space.Newton’s impact depth approximation suggests that it was either destroyed completely by impact with the air or slowed and fell back to Earth.

More here.

Same goes for Tyler Cowen, who today excerpts from pieces written in the 19th century. It is *astonishing* how similar the public policy debate then mirrors today’s. As Tyler says: it feels like we’re living in the 19th century.

Turning to insurance for a minute, I often wish I could find a trove of data (or a survey paper!) describing earlier underwriting cycles. There is guaranteed to be a period in the last few hundred years with strong lessons for us today.

Such perspective would be worth big $.

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