"balls to the wall"

Landau, James James.Landau at NGC.COM
Mon Feb 13 13:52:09 UTC 2006

>"... early mechanical engine governors that spun metal balls in a
growing circle as the >engine speed increased."
>Depends upon what you mean by "early." I remember such governors from
my days at the 
>Harbor Steam Plant of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
They ensured that 
>the turbines of steam turbo-electric generators did not spin at more
than 3600 r.p.m., 
>lest centrifugal forces cause them to fly apart.

The concern was not with centrifugal force but with keeping the
generators running at a constant 3600 rpm which is 60 cycles per second,
that being the standard for electric current.  If the generators ran at
other than 60 cycles per second, electric clocks will start showing the
wrong time.

When Accutron watches first brought electronic time accuracy to the
masses, Accutron owners delighted in calling the local power station to
tell them their generators were off frequency.

I think the centrifugal governor was invented by James Watt, which
qualifies it as "early" but not "obsolete".  The turbine of the
turbo-electric generator goes back to Hero of Alexander.

         - James A. Landau

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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