Re: What were they thinking?
Along similar lines to the CO2 racing pallets.
During my first year at uni, in the chemistry lab I spotted a very large shower-head and a long new shiny metal chain next to it.
So I asked what it was for. It's an emergency shower in case you get covered in acid, or catch fire in an explosion or any similar chemistry accident. It dumps one gallon of water per second over you to save you life, says the lab assistant. That's 4.5 litres, 4.5 kg per second.
Being a scientist I obviously asked how do you know it's one gallon per second? And the lab assistant burst out laughing, then eventually explained.
Every holiday, just before each term started, two technicians would come in with a VERY large plastic bucket, a stop watch and a ladder. Up the ladder goes Techie 1 with the very large bucket and holds it so that the shower-head is well inside the bucket. On the count of three, Techie 2 pulls hard on the chain and starts the stop-watch, pulling the chain at the five second mark to stop the flow. Then they weigh the bucket to get the total flow in five seconds.
And just before the current term started, when the chain was pulled hard, the valve opened, the water came down and the chain as well. Broken off at the very top above the shower-head.
Techie 1 is now at the top of a ladder holding a container that is gaining weight at 4.5 kg per second, soon struggling to keep his balance, while Techie 2 is trying to jump very high to grab the lever that controls the valve, screaming for help, can someone turn off the water supply to the entire lab.
Eventually, Techie 1 fell off, dumping everything over Techie 2 and after several minutes someone found the mains stopcock to switch off the water. The lab was flooded and closed for the afternoon.
But the conclusion was that if the lab caught fire, under the shower was definately the safest place to be! Many of the class would touch the chain occasionally, but none of us dared to pull it.