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A pound of flesh

3 years ago

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David Twohig | Engineer


30 June 2021

Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.

In Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’, Shylock valued a pound of the rather annoying Antonio’s flesh as being adequate collateral for a 3000 ducat loan. Google tells me that this is the equivalent of about £360,000 these days. Not a bad £ to lb ratio…

It turns out that modern car makers do some similar maths, trying to figure out the value – and hence the acceptable cost – of reducing the mass of their vehicles. They try their best to put a number on this in terms of euros per kilo, or dollars per pound, or pounds per pound: take your pick. I’ll stick here with £/kilogram for consistency – unforgivably mixing Imperial and metric, I know. This begs a few questions: why come up with these numbers? How? And what impact might they have on the cars that we drive?

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