Ups and Downs


5 Fun Things to Do in a Lift

When I was little, my grandfather used to make me stand in a closet for five minutes without moving.  He said it was elevator practice.

- Steven Wright

  1. Stand silent and motionless in the corner, facing the wall without getting off.
  2. Stare wide-eyed at another passenger for a while, then announce: "I've got new socks on!"
  3. Meow occasionally.
  4. Say "Ding" at each floor.
  5. Make explosion noises when anyone pushes a button.

One Unfunny Thing to Do in an Elevator: Get Stuck

by Michele Kessler

Maria Ferrer's personal digital assistant helped her free a trapped man whose name she never knew.

Ferrer, 37, and her daughter Gianina, 12, were waiting for a table in a New Jersey restaurant when they received an urgent plea for help from New York City.

It came from an Internet chat room, which Gianina had accessed through Maria's Palm VII PDA as a way to kill time.  A man needed assistance - he was struck in an elevator in a Wall Street office building.  His cellphone didn't work.  Shouting for help wouldn't work: no one was around on Saturday afternoon to hear him.  But his PDA connected to the Internet.

The Ferrers were sceptical.  But the man kept pleading and eventually they called the phone number he said would get to the building manager.  The weekend supervisor checked out the stuck elevator.

Soon after, the Ferrers received one last message from the man in the chat room: "Thank you."

Source: USA Today Tuesday 26 June 2001

How To Survive in a Plummeting Elevator

Lie flat on the floor in the centre of the elevator, covering your head for protection.

Say you're in an elevator in a high-rise office building, and the car begins to free-fall from the 65th floor. What do you do?

Flatten your body against the car floor.

While there is disagreement among the experts, most recommend this method.  This should distribute the force of impact, rather than concentrate it on one area of your body.  (Standing would be difficult anyway.)

bulletLie in the centre of the car.
bulletCover your face and head to protect yourself from ceiling parts that may break loose.

Hydraulic elevators are more likely than cable elevators to fall.  These elevators are pushed from the bottom by a giant piston, similar to those you see on service station car jacks.  Because the piston is subject to ground corrosion, it can rot, which could cause the elevator car to fall.  The height of hydraulic elevators is limited to about 70 feet, so a free fall probably would result in injury - but not death.

Elevators have numerous safety features, and there have been few recorded incidents involving death from plummeting cars.  In general, it is highly unlikely that a cable elevator (also called a traction elevator) would fall to the bottom of the shaft.  Moreover, the compressed air column in the elevator shaft and the car buffers at the bottom of the elevator shaft may keep the forces of the impact survivable.

Jumping just before the elevator hits the bottom is not a viable alternative.  The chances that you will time your jump exactly right are infinitely small.  Besides, the elevator will not remain intact when it hits - it will likely collapse around you.

Source: illustration credit Robert Kemp

Want a Lift?

Toshiba Installs World's Fastest Elevator

Tokyo - Toshiba Elevator and Building Systems Corp said Thursday it has installed the world's fastest passenger elevator in the world's tallest building in Taipei, with Guinness World Records certifying the elevator's record-breaking specifications.  The elevator, installed at the Taipei 101 office building, ascends at a speed of 1,010 metres per minute or 60.6 kilometres per hour, according to the latest edition of Guinness World Records (Kyodo News).

Comment: Also known as, "The Anklebreaker" by building tenants, this marvel of engineering has tripled sales of Ace bandages and Dr Scholls footpads at the in-building store.  Mr Smith comments, "It's really a wonder!  I used to have to wait 15 minutes to get up to my office, and now I can do it in 2 minutes," before rolling himself away in his recently-acquired wheelchair.

Source: Thursday 16 December 2004

This guy's in the rear of a full elevator and he shouts, "Ballroom please."  A lady standing in front of him turns around and says, "I'm sorry, I didn't realise I was crowding you."

Everybody Needs a Lift Pitch

The "elevator pitch" is the concept of being able to put your entire message in the time it takes to go up a few floors in a lift.  You never know when you’re going to run into someone who can make an impact on your career or business, so you’ve got to be ready.  If you haven’t caught their attention in the first 30 seconds, you probably won’t get them in the second 30 seconds.

Effectively promote your business (or idea) whenever an opportunity presents itself - open up your career development opportunities through improved networking skills.

Source: 25 January 2005

Magic Lift

Ap Dorji and his son were in Bangkok for the first time and found themselves in a huge shopping mall.  They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and back together again.  The boy asked his father, "What is this, Apa?"  The father never having seen a lift before responded, "I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don't know what it is."

While the two were watching wide-eyed, an old lady in a wheel chair rolled up to the moving walls and pressed a button.  The walls opened and the lady rolled between them into a small room.  The walls closed and the boy and his father watched small circles of lights with numbers above the walls light up.  They continued to watch the circles light up in the reverse direction.

The walls opened up again and a beautiful 24-year-old woman stepped out.  The father said to his son, "Wai, hurry go get your mother."

Space Elevator: Momentum Building

by Leonard David

Leading experts are taking a longing look at the idea of a space elevator.  The idea is a stretch, no doubt, with plenty of work to do before travellers have push-button, top floor access to space.  For one, what’s needed, advocates explain, is a super-tough ribbon that does an about face in thinking.  It hangs from the ground and falls into the sky - thanks to the Earth’s spin and centripetal force.  Anchored in space a ribbon 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometres) long would be made of carbon nanotubes.  A "climber" would haul cargo, as well as passenger modules up and down the length of ribbon. Those are the basics.  Of course, money is a key lubricant in this high-wire balancing act of technology.

"It’s a mega project - things are moving about as quickly and as well as could be expected," said Bradley Edwards, Director of Research for the Institute for Scientific Research (ISR), based in Fairmont, West Virginia.  He is a leading authority on the space elevator concept.  Edwards is quick to run down what’s up on the space elevator challenges, from carbon nanotube technology, power beaming, climber hardware to space debris impacts on the ribbon, health and safety issues, as well as cost, politics and regulations.  Different methods of producing carbon nanotubes are moving forward, even to the point of a new process that spins the material in similar fashion to how rope is made.

The discovery of carbon nanotubes and the ongoing development to form them into a composite material is central to space elevator viability being achieved in the coming years.  Major advancements are underway in carbon nanotubes, Edwards said.  That goes for competitive production ideas, as well as churning them out in ever-stronger batches and at costs far cheaper than before.  Purchasing grams of the material in the past has turned into buying kilograms today, and for a greatly reduced price tag, he said.  Blue-sky thinkers like Edwards envision the space elevator as a revolutionary way of getting from Earth into space.  The primary system is a ribbon attached at one end to Earth on a floating platform located in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  The other end of the ribbon is in space, beyond geosynchronous orbit.

Once operational a space elevator could ferry satellites, spaceships, and various structures into space using electric lifts clamped to the ribbon.  Research points to a space elevator capable of lifting 5-ton payloads every day to all Earth orbits, the Moon, Mars, Venus or the asteroids - in 15 years after formal go-ahead.  The first space elevator would reduce lift costs immediately and drastically, as compared to current launch costs.  Additional and larger elevators, built utilising the initial design, would allow large-scale activities in space and reduce lift costs even more.  Admittedly, years of research are required to turn this pipedream into actual space hardware.  Nevertheless, major organisations are taking the notion seriously, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, as well as the National Space Society.

"There’s a broad range of issues - but we’re trying to hit the biggest issues we can," Edwards said.  Being on top of the space elevator has its downside, Edwards noted.  "I get a lot of ‘this is crazy’ kinds of comments," he said.  But remember the early mariners who dared to build ships that sailed around the globe.  Recall how going to the Moon was thought impossible, expressed by well-known experts at the time, Edwards countered.  "People have to take the time to look at the engineering that’s been done," Edwards explained, "then make an informed decision.  That’s what we’ve been pushing."

Edwards said NASA’s new reach back to the Moon, onward to Mars and beyond would become a very clear-cut undertaking - given high-strength material to fabricate a space elevator.  "The risk of a Challenger or Columbia shuttle tragedy is basically removed.  You don’t have the large energy transfer type events of a rocket launch or reentry.  No need for heavy-lift vehicles.  You can eliminate a lot of the other development risks," Edwards concluded.  "The whole space exploration program could be very straightforward and become successful pretty quick."

Source: 29 June 2004

Hit the Floor!

If you sank an elevator shaft through the earth from the US to Australia and boarded the elevator in New York,
would you be standing on your head when the elevator door opened in Sydney?

- Marilyn vos Savant "Questions That Amaze Even Marilyn"

On a recent weekend in Atlantic City, a woman won a bucketful of quarters at a slot machine.  She took a break from the slots for dinner with her husband in the hotel dining room.  But first she wanted to stash the quarters in her room.  "I'll be right back and we'll go to eat," she told her husband and carried the coin-laden bucket to the elevator.

As she was about to walk into the elevator she noticed two men already aboard.  Both were black.  One of them was big - very big - an intimidating figure.  The woman froze.  Her first thought was: "These two are going to rob me."  Her next thought was: "Don't be a bigot, they look like perfectly nice gentlemen."  Unfortunately, racial stereotypes are powerful, and fear immobilised her.  She stood and stared at the two men, feeling anxious, flustered, ashamed.  She hoped they didn't read her mind, but knew they surely did; her hesitation about joining them on the elevator was all too obvious.

Her face flushed; she couldn't just stand there, so with a mighty effort of will she stepped forward and entered the elevator.  Avoiding eye contact, she turned around stiffly and faced the elevator doors as they closed.  A second passed, and then another second, and then another.  Her fear increased!  The elevator wasn't moving!  Panic consumed her.  "My God!" she thought, "I'm trapped and about to be robbed!"  Her heart plummeted and perspiration poured from every pore.  Then one of the men said, "Hit the floor."  Instinct told her: "Do what they tell you!"  The bucket of quarters flew upwards as she threw out her arms and collapsed on the elevator carpet.  A shower of coins rained down on her.  "Take my money and spare me," she prayed to herself.

More seconds passed.  She heard one of the men say politely, "Ma'am, if you'll just tell us what floor you're going to, we'll push the button."  The one who said it had a little trouble getting the words out as he was trying mightily to hold in a belly laugh.  She lifted her head and looked up at the two men.

They reached down to help her up.  Confused, she struggled to her feet.  "When I told my man here to hit the floor," said the average-sized gentleman, "I meant that he should hit the elevator button for our floor.  I didn't mean for you to hit the floor, ma'am."  He spoke genially, then bit his lip.  It was obvious he was having a hard time not laughing.  She thought: "What a spectacle I've made of myself!"  She was too humiliated to speak, though she wanted to blurt out an apology - but how do you apologise to two perfectly respectable gentlemen for behaving as if they were about to rob you?  Words failed her.

The 3 of them gathered up the strewn quarters and refilled her bucket.  When the elevator arrived at her floor they insisted on walking her to her room.  She seemed a little unsteady on her feet, and they were afraid she might not make it down the corridor.  At her door they bid her a good evening.  As she slipped into her room she could hear them roaring with laughter while they walked back to the elevator.  The woman brushed herself off, pulled herself together and went downstairs for dinner with her husband.

The next morning flowers were delivered to her room - a dozen roses.  Attached to EACH rose was a crisp $100 bill.  The card said: "Thanks for the best laugh we've had in years."  It was signed, Eddie Murphy and Michael Jordan.

Source: somewhere on the internet - a reportedly true story from an Atlantic City paper, but I suspect it's actually an urban legend

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