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Going round in circles

July 15, 2003



They're all wheels, of course, but can you tell what kind? Our artist has taken them off their "vehicles" and made them all the same size to try to stump you. Look at the images, read the clues, and then see if you can figure out the "wheel deal." The answers are below.

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1 It doesn't spin yarn, but you might have taken it for a spin in 2000 BC. It was high-tech, for its time: Spokes made for lighter wheels that could be pulled by horses (instead of strong but slow oxen). For war, the hubs might be fitted with blades.

2 Made of aluminum with stainless-steel spikes and cleats for traction on rocky terrain, you might say that this wheel (one of six) is 'out of this world.' And you'd be correct.

3 The ones on your machine at home probably have 32 spokes. But check out the front wheel on one of Lance Armstrong's ultralight models and you'll find only three.

4 What you may not notice about this flanged steel wheel is that the tread (the part that makes contact with the surface over which it rolls) is beveled. In other words, the outside of the wheel is smaller in diameter than the inside. Why, do you think?

5 These were made of metal in the 1900s, when kids nailed them to boards. Clay ones were better, but still jarring, in the 1960s. The sport took off in the 1970s with Frank Nasworthy's smooth-riding, sidewalk-gripping urethane models.

6 No, it's not for your pet hamster. It first appeared in 1811, in the United States, and was powered by steam. By 1875, it had carried people and cargo on almost every river in the US.

7 With the growing use of tar for roadbuilding came a pressing need for this machine. It was invented in France in 1859 and used for about 100 years - until it was finally flattened by an updated model.

8 Inventor La Marcus Thompson, born in 1848, is considered by many to be the 'father' of the contraption to which this odd triple wheel is attached. His business had its ups, downs, and (sometime later) corkscrews - much to the delight of thrill-seekers still.

9 The first of these spun to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the New World. It was 140 feet tall, and named for the Pittsburgh bridge-builder who invented it. Today its shorter descendants amuse millions worldwide.

10 Before each use, they are spun in shallow pits of water and chemicals to heat them up. That's so they'll get better traction. Each trip they take is just 1,320 feet long, though. And it's over in a hurry.

Answers:

(1) Chariot wheel; (2) One of the five-inch tall wheels on 'Sojourner,' the 24-inch-long robotic rover that landed on Mars in 1997; (3) Carbon-fiber bicycle wheel. Lance Armstrong is a champion US cyclist; (4) Train wheel. The angled treads serve the same purpose as a differential in a car, allowing the train to go around corners smoothly. (5) Skateboard wheel. Dye or pigment in the wheel weakens it, so hard-core 'boarders opt for clear wheels. (6) Paddle wheel from a 19th-century stern-wheeler; (7) Steamroller (now a 'diesel roller') wheel; (8) Roller-coaster wheel. Thompson's invention, designed to keep the coaster firmly on its tracks, is still used today. (9) Ferris wheel. George Ferris heard planners of Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition bemoaning the fact that the event had nothing to equal the Eiffel Tower built for the Paris Exposition in 1889. Upon hearing that, Ferris sketched a plan for his giant wheel on a napkin. (10) Drag-racing 'slick' tire. The tread is 18 inches wide and the tire 10 feet in circumference to give racers traction for rapid acceleration.

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