Murphy's Law: Short People and Old Ships

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January3, 2007: In the course of looking into the prospects of refurbishing older warships, including World War II era battle ships, U.S. Navy analysts discovered something that no one noticed before. These older ships were designed when the average serviceman was 5'8¼" and weighed around 150 pounds. Today the average American male of military age is about an inch taller and 15-20 pounds heavier. Most vehicles, and ships, today are designed to handle 5'10" tall and 170 pound people. Even today, tourists visiting World War II battleships, that have been turned into museums, bump their heads frequently, and simply dismiss it as a quirk of how they built ships back in the day. Not so. People an inch or two shorter can move more easily through these ships without having to duck as much. People were even shorter two centuries ago, and there are several early 19th century sailing ships surviving, and serving as floating museums, where visitors have to duck a lot moving through. But the original crewmen could walk about without being hunched over. This growth in the average size of sailors was another reason for not trying to revive these older ships. All that ducking does slow sailors, and what they are doing, down. In combat, that does make a difference.

 


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