Feynman explains how trains stay on track

In this short video, physicist Richard Feynman describes the fun of figuring out how things really work. The example he uses here is how trains stay on their rails.

No, it’s not those flanges (though that seems obvious at first). In a way it’s a kind of ‘closed loop servo system’ or a self-correcting mechanism. In mechanical design I’ve heard this idea called ‘self-help’ where loads get distributed evenly by a careful design (see the book The Elements of Mechanical Design by James Skakoon for more on this topic).

This shows a microcosm of the job we do working with clients, solving problems – we always care about how things really work, and this video shows an example where the first ‘obvious’ idea may not be quite right.

In any case, it’s always fun to hear Feynman explain stuff. There’s a load of footage of him at youtube, explaining fire, light, uncertainty. Enjoy.

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