The History Channel has produced another excellent Modern Marvels episode; this time the topic is engines. More information about this History Channel offering can be found at the Modern Marvels Web site.
This 60-minute episode traces the long evolution of engines and motors from Hero’s steam engine circa 30 A.D. Greece to futuristic nanometer scale molecular motors produced via cutting-edge nano-fabrication techniques.
Many different types of engines are highlighted: steam piston engines, electric motors, internal combustion engines, gas turbines, rocket engines, and MEMS micro-turbines. The episode also explores some engine novelties, including the Wankel rotary engine driving the new Mazda RX8 and the stirling engine.
My only criticism is that the topic of engines is far too broad for a mere hour-long TV spot. I was disappointed that each technology received only a cursory overview. Personally, I could watch hours upon hours of this kind of programming, and I would be thrilled to see individual Modern Marvels episodes covering each kind of engine type in detail. However, I fear that my “All Engines All the Time” network would probably not fly with regular viewers. History Channel regulars need their Mail Call.
The engines episode culminates with coverage of hybrid vehicles and hydrogen motors, topics receiving substantial attention recently at Design News. For more information on hybrids, check out John Dodge’s recent Design Engineering At Large blog post: “Prius a terrible polluter?”. For more on Hydrogen vehicles, see my recent post “Criticisms Abound Despite BMW’s Hydrogen 7 Innovations”.
Unfortunately Modern Marvels: Engines is not scheduled to air again for at least two more weeks. If you missed this episode, I suggest buying it from History Channel’s on-line store.