I was searching for the latest scores and standings of my beloved NBA team, the Detroit Pistons. I typed the word “piston” into my search engine, Bing, and clicked enter. The image below popped up.
This internet search has brought about a big chuckle, and I silently laughed to myself. The Bing result shows both “pistons” that I know of: The Detroit Pistons (my favorite NBA team), and the other pistons — those magic pieces that every car has in its engine.
Maybe it is just me, but the mention of the other pistons incites a deeply rooted passion of mine, and awaken great memories dating back to childhood and my early youth. The passion for the physics of electricity and machinery, the passion for engineering, and in particular, for engines and motors and how they work.
In a prior post, from August 2, 2017, I talked about my original passion, engineering, and how ending up in medicine was not planned. I talked in the post about my fascination with how electric motors and generators work, and how entering medicine has enhanced my passion for technology and engineering.
Electric motors utilize the concept of electric magnets in the form of copper wires coiled around metals turning them into magnets which turn on-off so fast and thus rotate between permanent magnets.
While the aforementioned mechanism is a mere simplification for modern days’ electric motors, the original concept remains the same as explained.
Gas engines in cars, on the other hand, work in a totally different fashion. They utilize the power resulting from burning of pressurized, vaporized gasoline (a mini-explosion) inside a sturdy, tightly closed cylinder (yes, this is how cars or motor bikes are classified as two-cylinder, 4-cylinder, 8-cylinder, etc). These mini-explosions inside the cylinders will then drive the pistons upward. As shown in the figure, the piston is a sturdy steel structure that is molded to slide up and down the cylinder following the mini-explosions. This repeated motion resulting from up-down sliding of the pistons inside the cylinders will be transferred into continuous rotation that will be transmitted ultimately to the wheels (but do not forget the clutch and the gear, etc). Thus, the car will move.
So, now back to the Detroit Pistons.
Since coming to Flint, Michigan in 1992, and with this deeply rooted passion for engineering, I have always wondered if the Detroit Pistons were named after the cars’ pistons? I would ask friends and colleagues,including those who are die hard Pistonians, but I could not get the answer. That was before the era of the internet and search engines.