Monthly Archives: April 2008

Dubai, Fastest Growing City in the World

An old friend of mine at Columbia University business school recently returned from Dubai where he had traveled with his class for spring break.

He told me that there were tons of chic restaurants and bars, but that the place had “no real culture.” Everyone on the street was from a different country and speaking English, every type of food was available much like one would find in any major city, and the nightlife scene reminded him of South Beach, Florida. The place exists for foreigners – business people and rich vacationers (primarily from Europe).

My friend said that the construction going on there was incredible, and he wondered if the place was being overbuilt. Dubai recently constructed the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world. It also has a network of tiny man made islands for vacationers called “The World” which combine to form the shape of the continents. Presently the city is constructing three more gigantic man made islands in shape of palm trees. The reason for the shape is that the fingers of land which serve as the branches of the palm dramatically increase the available beach front property to build hotels on.

The unprecedented rate of construction in Dubai is made possible by the country’s abundant supply of dirt cheap labor from India and other countries of that region. The workers generally receive about seven dollars a day, and because they don’t have unions it’s possible to make them work longer hours and do other activities the U.S. would prohibit. Many people have even characterized Dubai’s manual labor workforce as slave labor.

Take a look at “Next” in Today’s Machining World’s April issue for more on Dubai.

Video of massive construction in Dubai from Fall of 2006 to Spring of 2007

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The Fire Pole of 1878

Today, April 21, in 1878, the fire station pole was invented. Prior to the existence of fire station poles, firemen often used sliding shoots like those in playgrounds to quickly get down to the ground floor, as opposed to taking a slower staircase. Like so many inventions it was inspired by an accident. At Engine Company 21, a station of all black firemen in Chicago, fireman George Reid was in the hayloft on the station’s third floor (back then hay was needed for the horses which pulled the fire “engines”). A long binding pole used to secure the hay to the wagon was sticking vertically up the loading area into the hay loft, when suddenly the fire bell rang and Reid impulsively slid down the pole to get to the ground.

The Station’s captain David Kenyon liked the concept, and he and the Chief decided to cut a hole in the second floor and install a permanent pole made of waxed, varnished, Georgia Pine three inches in diameter. Soon Engine 21 got the reputation of being the first responders, inspiring the rest of Chicago’s fire stations to install their own poles.

In 1880, Boston advanced the idea by making its fire stations’ poles from shiny, slippery brass.

Today fire station poles are no longer en vogue, as many people consider them safety hazards. New firehouses are often built without them, and one-story fire stations are generally preferred.

(Source:, via

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France's Technical Center of the Screw Machining Industry

In 1962, the French government created CTDEC, a research and training center primarily devoted to screw machining, in France’s Haute-Savoie region, located right across the border from Geneva, Switzerland. Comprised of 630 member companies, CTDEC has an annual budget of 6.3 million euros, and contains 6,600 square meters of laboratories and workshops.

One of the most interesting resources at the CTDEC is its advanced diagnostic center used to identify part defects. It contains an extremely powerful microscope that can magnify objects tens of thousands of times. It has the strength to see inside an ant’s eye and can surpass that magnification quantity exponentially. CTDEC charges 90 euros per hour for companies to use services such as this one, and non-member companies from around the world are allowed to use the facilities services for the same fee.

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Line Shaft Power Transmission at Museum in France

The first week of April, Noah Graff of TMW attended a press junket put on by the Arve-Industries Competitiveness Pole in the Haute-Savoie of France, a historic and current hotbed of machining close to Geneva Switzerland. The first day the journalists had a tour of the Musee de l’Horlogerie et du De`colletage, or, Museum of Clocks and Screw-Machining.

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