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Simple Science

Machines

Man's Way of Helping Himself:
A glance into our machine shops, our factories, and even our homes shows how widespread is the use of complex machinery. But all machines, however complicated in appearance, are in reality but modifications and combinations of one or more of four simple machines devised long ago by our remote ancestors. These simple devices are known to-day, as (1) the lever, represented by a crowbar, a pitchfork; (2) the inclined plane, represented by the plank upon which barrels are rolled into a wagon; (3) the pulley, represented by almost any contrivance for the raising of furniture to upper stories; (4) the wheel and axle, represented by cogwheels and coffee grinders.

Suppose a 600-pound bowlder which is embedded in the ground is needed for the tower of a building. The problem of the builder is to get the heavy bowlder out of the ground, to load it on a wagon for transportation, and finally to raise it to the tower. Obviously, he cannot do this alone; the greatest amount of force of which he is capable would not suffice to accomplish any one of these tasks. How then does he help himself and perform the impossible? Simply, by the use of some of the machine types mentioned above, illustrations of which are known in a general way to every schoolboy. The very knife with which a stick is whittled is a machine.

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