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Pratchett Science Speculation

 
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From Terry Pratchett's "Steam" p 278 in this hardback edition...


...the Cabbage Research Institute, whose students were the first to get a cabbage to a height of five hundred yards propelled entirely by it's own juices. Nobody asked why they felt it was necessary to do this, but that was science for you, and, of course, students.



This concept fascinates me. How could this be done? I'd try some kind of fermentation, then distill that ferment to make an alcohol explosive.  How about you?

And is it necessary to be done? Hmm... I'd vote yup! How about you?

Things that puzzle me.....
:D
 
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Hmmm... the quote suggests an individual cabbage and and individual launch. I'm into group-work, so I'd feed a bunch of cabbages to a cow and capture the methane that produced, but then I guess I'd have to launch the cow because what's left of the cabbages would be inside it.

Breaking 500 yards might be unpleasant for the cow.
 
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When I first read that passage several years ago, I was thinking of a huge cabbage. So first scale up the veg then allow fermentation to occur only in the center by cutting out part of the stem, adding salt, and inserting a stopper. Allow the cabbage to ferment for several days. Set the cabbage in the sun when it is ripe (stem end down of course), pour your favorite beverage, sit down, and enjoy the moment. No matter what, it's a good day.

If this doesn't work, startling the cabbage may set it off.
 
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I wonder how much pressure you can get out of sauerkraut fermenting... but how can you get sauerkraut to ferment without salt... That's not it's juices alone.
 
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I think it's not a matter of needing more thrust but the aerodynamic properties could use some improvement. How about selectively breeding for the smoothest skin & delta wing shaped bodies? Or ... breed a cabbage than wants to fly. If it really really really has a strong desire to launch it might be more cooperative in the project.
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:I think it's not a matter of needing more thrust but the aerodynamic properties could use some improvement. How about selectively breeding for the smoothest skin & delta wing shaped bodies? Or ... breed a cabbage than wants to fly. If it really really really has a strong desire to launch it might be more cooperative in the project.



Landrace for flight! We could call it an airrace! Or even... A spacerace!
 
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...the Cabbage Research Institute, whose students were the first to get a cabbage to a height of five hundred yards propelled entirely by it's own juices. Nobody asked why they felt it was necessary to do this, but that was science for you, and, of course, students.



Terry Pratchett was the first author who made me cry! Thank you for sharing this gem. What a joyful vision.
 
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Doesn't say anything about any extra apparatus. Or that the entire cabbage reaches 500yds. (presumably "propellant" is left behind along the way/ or does not arrive with payload)
Possibly a dehydrated cabbage raised by a dehydraporativator*, 500 yards tall of course.


* an elevator driven by evaporation/condensation, which raises a desiccated payload, by means of its extracted moisture.
** I just made this up, but it's totally a thing.
 
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I was thinking maybe they partially dehydrated it, condensed the vapor back into water, then super-heated the liquid as some kind of steam-powered propellant.
 
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Edward Norton wrote:


Terry Pratchett was the first author who made me cry! Thank you for sharing this gem. What a joyful vision.



He usually made me laugh out loud (he is missed) which book was that then?

I think as regards flying cabbages, selective breeding would be the way to go. I've heard tales locally of peoples' cabbage transplants being blown out of the ground by the wind, and they certainly have sail like properties to the leaves.  Maybe they could be selected to be like a sycamore seed, with a twist to the leaves so that the wind rotates and lifts like a helicopter?
 
Edward Norton
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Nancy Reading wrote:He usually made me laugh out loud (he is missed) which book was that then?

He made me do that too which then lead to tears of joy! I started back in ‘85 with Colour of Magic and Rincewind. I loved his geekiness, his bending of physics and one liners, like the one above. Good Omens still remains on of my favourites. Crowley had an interesting way of dealing with underperforming pot plants. Maybe over a few hundred generations, Crowley could get cabbages to fly with his own special selective breading program. If I remember correctly, Terry Pratchett also speculated that the tortoises dropped by eagles would eventually learn to fly . . . Possibly by developing a single wing from their shell and spinning to the ground like a sycamore seed.
 
Nancy Reading
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You beat me to Pratchett by two years - I only discovered him at College in 1987. He was the first author I had to wait for his books to be published so I could rush out and buy them. Initially paperbacks because I couldn't afford the hardbacks - pity because some of those early ones signed would be worth a bit by now, although maybe not in the read and re read state they get to with me .... I love the way the whole of 'Soul Music' leads up to the last line.
 
Edward Norton
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Well you beat me to college by a year! He was so prolific . . . I’ve given up on Patrick Rothfuss . . . I kept hold of my paperbacks for years hoping my boys would enjoy them, but alas no and eventually I parted with them when we left Asia. The tropics weren’t kind on books and this one may have lost some value . . . Not that I’d ever part with it.
DDED48A2-E948-4AE5-8123-FAC0E1577574.jpeg
Signed book by Terry Pratchett
 
Pearl Sutton
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Mike Barkley wrote: Or ... breed a cabbage that wants to fly. If it really really really has a strong desire to launch it might be more cooperative in the project.


The question arises, how do you KNOW the cabbage wants to fly? Need to add to the landrace breeding project the ability to communicate it's desires! This could be a problem if you end up with rude, mouthy cabbage, do you rogue it out or keep it to breed since it might be angry enough to fly to escape? And do you dare inflict hostile flying cabbage on the the world? Ethical dilemmas....  :D

Edit: The hostile cabbage strain can be named Cabbitch :D
 
Robin Katz
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Pearl Sutton wrote: The hostile cabbage strain can be named Cabbitch :D



Ah Pearl you made me laugh out loud with that one. Then my very odd mind went right to...... "A new series on BBC: Fartichoke and Cabbitch"
 
Pearl Sutton
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I have been reminded that even non-landrace, non-flying cabbages have a tendency to bolt. We simply have to channel that drive and help them get their collective heads together to fly.
 
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Could we possibly enlist those otherwise pesky cabbage white butterflies to give a boost to the cabbage? Does attracting them with fermenting juices from the cabbage count? I'm not sure how many it would take to get a cabbage airborne, but I'm sure they could be convinced.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:From Terry Pratchett's "Steam" p 278 in this hardback edition...


...the Cabbage Research Institute, whose students were the first to get a cabbage to a height of five hundred yards propelled entirely by it's own juices. Nobody asked why they felt it was necessary to do this, but that was science for you, and, of course, students.



This concept fascinates me. How could this be done? I'd try some kind of fermentation, then distill that ferment to make an alcohol explosive.  How about you?

And is it necessary to be done? Hmm... I'd vote yup! How about you?

Things that puzzle me.....
:D


Fermentation and alcohol certainly are great, but explosions can be had with just juices and LOTS of tension (what can't you do with juices?)

STEP ONE:  First some motivational video footage....I'd start by making the cabbages watch this....got to motivate them to visualize their future greatness!

 
Mike Barkley
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After further consideration I figured out a way to determine which cabbages are truly committed. Have Felix take them up on his next jump. That will give them the most time to learn & demonstrate their new skills. It could be done over the world's largest mayonnaise factory in case things don't progress well for them. Maybe have a BBQ at the watch party. Perhaps the reluctant cabbitches could be persuaded with the vegetable version of the infamous plata o plomo technique. Hey, they had a choice right? Fly or become cole slaw.

 
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