THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE HUMBLE BARREL. I posted here about an article by Wayne Curtis on the importance of the barrel to the flavor of whiskey. The issue of the Atlantic (November 2013) in which that article appeared also contained an article by James Fallows reporting on the results of a survey of experts on the history of technology and the resulting list of the “50 greatest breakthroughs since the wheel”. Curtis argues that the humble barrel is also one of the outstanding inventions of mankind. He points out that: “The barrel is actually made of two sets of arches running perpendicular to each other, making it astonishingly sturdy. A barrel bows out slightly in the middle (called the bilge), and each stave thus forms a broad longitudinal arch between the barrel’s top and bottom. And the staves, each one abutting two neighbors, collectively serve as a 360-degree latitudinal arch.” If a barrel falls, all the staves absorb the shock. And even a barrel weighing hundreds of pounds can be maneuvered by one stevedore.

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