Saturday, August 11, 2007

Desmodromic valves

I don't know why I call this post 'Desmodromic Valves'. For one, I am not going to write about desmodromic valves. Okay, maybe a little, because today was the day I found out what these valves are all about. To be brief (since I've already promised that I wouldn't be writing about them), they are valves with positive return mechanisms that make sure that the valve in an internal combustion engine returns to its original place, instead of the sissy mechanisms that rely on things like springs to do the job for them. Today was also the day I realized another major thing about myself - I heartily approve of the desmodromic valve principle, which makes sure stuff happens, instead of leaving it to spring resilience or gravity or the government or mom.

Talking about mom, she incidentally was visiting recently and tried once again to educate me on the art of cooking, but would not let me reason why. This time, she was educating me on the right daal-chawal technique.

"So you add lots of water to the lentils, add turmeric, and chuck it in the pressure cooker. DO NOT add salt. Add salt only after it's all cooked."

Now we engineers know there are reasons for each process, and phrases like "company policy" and "the ten commandments" do not faze us. We have, in the course of our education and career, learnt to perfect the process of probing into the depths of established processes and laying bare the underlying reasons by asking direct, well-chosen questions that put the finger on the nub, so to speak. Which is what I proceeded to do.

"Why?"

"Because if you do, you'll never get those lentils cooked."

I raised an eyebrow.

"Hang on. The whole pressure cooker idea is to elevate the boiling point of water, right? Now adding salt to water does the same thing. So combining the two should actually cook the lentils better, right? Right? Ha!"

Mom turned to my sis, who for some reason was standing around with a grin on her face.

"This is why you should do the cooking."

This is why Galileo decided to stay out of the kitchen and proceeded to invent the telescope, and Gustav Mees vented his feelings by developing the Desmodromic valve. I can't invent stuff myself, but I can drink beer. And I think I will.