Of Zerts, Plenches and Spunfits
Kirt's Cogitations™ #300

Life Magazine, September 27, 1963 (New Astronauts) - RF CafeOf Zerts, Plenches and Spunfits (Kirt's Cogitation #300) - RF CafeThe manned space program has unarguably provided mankind with many new and innovative tools, medicines, electronics, materials, physics, appliances, and mathematics. Known officially as "spinoffs," products include items like the portable heart defibrillator unit, the portable vacuum cleaner, freeze-drying food processors, powdered lubricants (e.g. graphite), memory foam, quartz clocks and battery-powered tools .

Many NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) inventions have not found an application in your basement or garage, however, because their purpose is too specialized. Take, for instance, the ZeRT, or Zero Reaction Tool. It is basically a torque wrench that is operated by one hand by squeezing. As the name implies, the ZeRT removes the consequence of Newton's third law motion experienced when using a standard wrench. There is no need to brace yourself against an immovable object when using it, since in space there is no gravity to hold your feet to the floor.

A Plench combines pliers with a wrench (actually a ZeRT). It, too, is a one-handed device, although it is of course possible to use the Plench as a standard pliers or wrench as long as the user has something to brace himself against.

You probably guessed what a Plench was. Any guesses as to what a Spunfit is? A Spunfit is a two-handed type of wrench made to hold a particular type of fitting on both sides. That prevents the object to which the fitting is attached from rotating during use.

Did you know that NASA is guilty of inventing the term "Spammer?" The term was conceived long before the Internet and e-mail was invented, and even before APRANET. A Spammer is a spring-loaded hammer. It is yet another tool that mitigates the equal and opposite reaction thing brought about by Newton's third law of motion. The hammer peen is cocked like a pistol and a trigger squeeze sets it loose. Clever, non?

There probably exists a long list of acronyms compiled by NASA over the many decades of manned space exploration. Ditto for the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities. Bureaucrats are really good at 1) Spending other people's money, 2) Creating rules for you to live by but not themselves, and 3) Generating acronyms.

NASA Tech Briefs - RF CafeNASA Tech Briefs is a free publication that reports on all the latest and greatest innovations. NASA actively seeks inquiries by anyone looking to use their taxpayer-funded work for commercial applications. I have subscribed to NASAS Tech Briefs since the 1980's and peruse every issue. It covers all realms of science, including electronics and radio communications. Subscribe today.

 

 

Posted April 3, 2018

 

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