Wind-powered car sets speed record, but gimme a wind wagon any day
Over the weekend, an odd looking "car" sped into the record books. The Greenbird, a wind-powered vehicle, blew across Nevada's Ivanpah Lake (it should be called Ivanpah dirt patch) at 126.1 miles an hour.Skip to next paragraph
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The car, built mostly from carbon-fiber composite materials and looking nothing like your mama's minivan, beat the previous record by about 10 miles an hour. The craft was designed, built, and driven by one Richard Jenkins, from Britain.
But the good Mr. Jenkins may, repeat, may, have nothing on one Sam Peppard, late of Kansas City. Very late. In 1860, on account of a shortage of horses and with lots of time on his hands, Mr. Peppard designed and built a "wind wagon." Peppard's Folly the neighbors called it. You can read more of the tale here.
According to the newspapers of the day, the wagon typically hustled along the prairie at the breakneck pace of 15 miles an hour. Occasionally it might hit 40.
But as everyone knows, you couldn't believe everything you read in the newspapers back then. So Arizona State University geographer, climate specialist, and weather-history kahuna Randy Cerveny is hoping to test the concept in the field with a full-scale replica next year.
This, according to a chat we had in his office at the university not long ago as we wound down a conversation on weather extremes.
A word about Dr. Cerveny. By his own description, "I'm one of the more eclectic people" in the climate and weather world. "I do tons of strange stuff."
"I did some stuff for the [Defense Department] on weather associated with prison escapes," he says. "Is there a specific kind of weather that you would be more likely to conduct a successful prison escape with?"
He's written one book on weather extremes, and has another due out this year.
Three years ago, he inadvertently landed a job as "rapporteur" for the World Meteorological Organization's Commission on Climatology.
He and some colleagues had noted the US's approach to archiving records of its wildest weather -- complete with a scientific panel to help sort out messy issues like: Was the anemometer badly calibrated? Did someone accidentally drop the thermometer in a pot of hot water before someone else took the temperature reading? In other words, are these readings legit?