So the septics have fired off a hypersonic scramjet.
Arcing through the hazy air above California, this is the incredible sight of a scramjet as it flies at six times the speed of sound.
The experimental aircraft set a record for hypersonic flight, blazing through the air for more than three minutes at Mach 6, or more than 4,500 mph.
The X-51A Waverider scramjet was released from a B-52 bomber last week before its engine took it to Mach 6 and it flew autonomously for 200 seconds.
Scramjets work by using oxygen rushing in through the engine at supersonic speeds to ignite hydrogen fuel.
Excellent stuff although this little movie isn\’t all that exciting.
But to give you a little story about globalisation. And no, not the one about how jet liners using such engines will get you from London to Sydney in 2 hours. Nor about how this will make space planes possible (still not fast enough to reach orbit, see?).
A few years back, at an earlier stage of experimentation on such engines, out went a call from the relevant manufacturer for someone who could make hafnium carbide powder. This was needed to coat the insides of the engine (it melts at 3,890 oC, for those who don\’t know, a very high number indeed).
No one in the US was willing or capable of producing this material at the mesh size (is, size of the bits of powder) required. So the production was done just outside Moscow, at a plant formerly owned by the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The intermediary being some random Englishman in Portugal. The manufacturer of the engines didn\’t know this: they didn\’t need to. They just needed the HfC. The US intermediary has never met either the Englishman or the Russian produicers: only email and phones were used (plus Fed Ex for transport of course).
The material was produced and delivered as required….and by using the globe\’s extant manufacturing resources, the material was delivered at the lowest possible cost: hugely lower than it would have been if they had been limited to needing to build the production capacity in the US.
This, in the end, is really what globalisation is. The international division and specialisation of labour playing out. It might be HfC from Moscow to California, it might be pineapples from Costa Rica to London or the listing of a Russian aluminium company in Hong Kong. Which is one of the reasons I\’ve never really understood those who rail against globalisation.
If you accept the basics of the division of labour (\”hey, you grow the apples, I\’ll make the cider and we\’ll get pissed together\”) then why shouldn\’t this apply to weird compounds, comestibles or services? Now that FedEx and UPS connect the globe more thoroughly than Dorset and Somerset were before the Slow and Dirty came into existence, what possible objection can there be to such international division?