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Quiet Mach 6 Wind Tunnel…and the spelunker who cleans it

I was reading today about the Purdue University wind tunnel that has been completed recently. Its main claim to fame is that it can generate “quiet” (non-turbulent) air streams running at Mach 6. This is important, apparently, for the testing and development of scramjet and similiar technologies.

All of this was interesting, but not what really caught my eye. No, the “whoa” moment was when I read the part about the fact that a major reason for the success of the tunnel is assigned to the student they got to clean the thing. Apparently, its over 120 feet long and 18 inches in diameter…and this kid crawled through that wearing a clean suit, polishing the inside of the tube.

18 inches in diameter…120 feet long…like the scientist says “If you are claustrophobic, this would not be the right job for you”. To me, that sounds like a great opportunity to develop a robot to do the cleaning. It seems like a really dumb job to give to a human, the sort of thing that results in headlines like “Promising Student Dies in Pipe Cleaning Accident at Purdue”.

And I’m not claustrophobic…just sane.

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