The Rear End of a Horse

There is an urban myth that the design of the rockets that propel the shuttle into space is constrained by the size of a horses bum.

The logic goes something like this:

1.  The rocket diameter was constrained by the width of the railway tunnels that the train that delivered the rocket passed through.
2.  The tunnel width was designed to accommodate two railway tracks.
3.  The railway track width (gauge) was designed by British engineers following George Stephenson’s lead when he built the Stockton to Darlington Railway.
4.  George Stephenson’s design was based on the distance between the wheels of horse drawn carts.
5.  The width of horse drawn carts is designed to accommodate two horse’s bums.

Does the logic follow down to the millimetre?  Probably not, but there is no doubt an element of “we have always done it that way” in there somewhere.

There are two morals to this story:

1.  What have you always done that way?  Why? Could you change it?  What would happen if you did?


2.  Isn’t it amazing what you can do if you work within the constraints you have?

Pick the one you like most.

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