Tunnels

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 22nd, 2014

Technology 101

A Bridge is a Fixed Structure that requires no Active Systems to Function

Bridges are dumb.  While tunnels are smart.  You can build a bridge and walk away from it.  And it will still work.  That is, you can still cross the bridge without anyone at the bridge doing anything.  It can even work in a power outage.  Even at night.  It may be dark.  But a car’s headlights will let a person cross safely.  Because a bridge doesn’t have to do much for people to use it.  All it has to do is stand there.  A tunnel, on the other hand, needs smart systems to make the tunnel passable and safe.

Bridges are high in the air.  Where there is plenty of fresh air to breathe.  If there is a car fire on the bridge all of that fresh air will allow other drivers to breathe as they drive around it.  And for first responders to breathe as they put that fire out.  They can use all the water they bring onto the bridge, too.  Even in a driving downpour.  For that water will just run off of that bridge without causing a drowning hazard.  Visibility doesn’t change driving onto or off of the bridge.  Unlike with tunnels.  Where you can go from bright daylight into a dark hole.  And from a dark hole into bright daylight.

A bridge is a fixed structure that requires no active systems to function.  Just some maintenance.  Painting and roadway lighting.  Maybe some traffic control signals.  But that’s about it.  Tunnels, on the other hand, need machinery.  Equipment.  Systems.  And people.  Because tunneling below grade causes a whole host of problems.  Problems that have to be addressed with machinery, equipment and systems.  And if they don’t work people can die in a tunnel.

Powerful fans at each end of the tunnel pull in fresh air and blow it through the duct under the roadway

Cars have internal combustion engines.  They exhaust carbon monoxide after combustion.  Which is poisonous if we breathe it.  A big problem in tunnels filled with cars with internal combustion engines.  Which is why if you look at a cross-sectional view of a tunnel you will see that the biggest section of these underground structures are used for moving air.

If you have driven through a tunnel you probably remember driving through a rectangular tube.  Little bigger than the vehicles driving through it.  What you don’t see is the air duct beneath the roadway.  And the air duct above the roadway.  Powerful fans at each end of the tunnel pull in fresh air from the atmosphere and blow it through the duct under the roadway.  It exits the duct at about exhaust pipe level.  This fresh air blows into the rectangular tube where cars are pumping in carbon monoxide.

Other powerful fans are also located at each end of the tunnel that pull air out of the tunnel.  Via the duct over the roadway.  Fresh air comes in from below.  Mixes with the poisonous carbon monoxide.  This gets sucked into openings overhead.  Into the duct over the roadway.  And vents to the atmosphere at either end of the tunnel.  Allowing these poison-making machines to travel underground in an enclosed space without killing people.

A Tunnel is a Complex Machine that requires Intelligent Programming not to put People in Danger

Tunnels through mountains go through porous rock that drip water into the tunnel.  Tunnels under bodies of water are low in the middle and high at the ends.  Making each tunnel portal a massive storm drain when it rains.  And water in a tunnel is a dangerous thing.  It can freeze.  It can get deep.  It can cause an accident.  It can drown people.  So when it enters the tunnel you need to pump it out.  Tunnels have storm drains that drain any water entering the tunnel to a sump at a low point.  And pumps move this water from the sump out of the tunnel.

Ever spend an hour or so shoveling snow on a bright day?  And then go inside only to temporarily lose your vision?  This is snow blindness.  Your pupils shrink down to a tiny dot outside to block much of the bright sun and the light reflecting from the snow and ice. And when you walk inside that tiny dot of a pupil won’t let enough light into your eye so you can see in the reduced lighting level.  After awhile your pupils begin to dilate.  And you can see.  Same thing happens when driving into a tunnel.  Of course, temporarily losing your vision while driving a car can be dangerous.  So they add a lot of lights at the entrance of a tunnel.  To replicate sunlight.  And as you drive through the tunnel the lighting levels fall as your eyes adjust.  At night they reduce the lighting levels to prevent blinding drives as they enter.  And prevent snow blindness when exiting the tunnel.

A bridge doesn’t need any of these systems.  But a tunnel won’t work without them.  As people could die in these tunnels.  Because it’s dangerous when people go below grade with machines that create poison.  So tunnels need computers and control systems.  To monitor existing conditions such as exterior lighting levels, carbon monoxide levels, smoke and fire detection, water levels and high water alarms, etc.  Based on these inputs a control system (or a person) turns lights on or off, increase or decrease supply and exhaust fan speeds, pump down the sump when it reaches a high water level, etc.  Only when these systems are on line and operating properly is driving through a tunnel as safe as driving over a bridge.  Because bridges are dumb things.  They only need to stand there to work.  While a tunnel is a complex machine.  That requires intelligent programming not to put people in danger.

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Air Handling Unit, Outside Air, Exhaust Air, Return Air and Energy Recovery Unit

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 27th, 2013

Technology 101

Things that Absorb Energy can Cool Things Down and Things that Radiate Energy can Warm Things Up

When two different temperatures come into contact with each other they try to reach equilibrium.  The warmer temperature cools down.  And the cooler temperature warms up.  If you drop some ice cubes into a glass of soda at room temperature the warm soda cools down.  The ice cubes warm up.  And melt.  When there is no more ice to melt the temperature of the soda rises again.  Until it reaches the ambient room temperature.  The normal unheated or un-cooled temperature in the surrounding space.  As the soda and the air in the room reach equilibrium.

When two temperatures come into contact with each other what happens depends on the available energy.  Higher temperatures have more energy.  Lower temperatures have less energy.  For heat is energy.  Things that absorb energy can cool things down.  Things that radiate energy can warm things up.  And this is the basis of our heating and cooling systems in our buildings and homes.

Boilers burn fuel to heat water.  A furnace burns fuel to heat air.  The heated water temperature and heated air temperature is warmer than the temperature you set on your thermostat.  When this very hot water/air circulates through a house or building it comes into contact with the cooler air.  As they come into contact with each other they bring the air in the space up to a comfortable room temperature.  Above the unheated ambient temperature.  But below the very hot temperature of the heating hot water or heated air temperature.

Heating and Cooling Buildings consume up to Half of all Energy on the Planet

Large buildings have air handling units (AHU) that ventilate, heat and cool the building’s air.  They’re big boxes (some big enough for grown men to walk in) with filter sections to clean the air.  Coil sections that heat or cool the air as it blows through these coils.  A supply and a return fan to blow air into the building via a network of air ducts.  And to suck air out of the building through another network of air ducts.  And a series of dampers (outside air, exhaust air and return air).

To keep the air quality suitable for humans we have to exhaust the breath we exhale from the building.  And replace it with fresh air from outside of the building.  This is what the dampers are for.  The amount they open and close adjusts the amount of outside air the AHU pulls into the building.  The amount of the air it exhausts from the building.  And the amount of air it recirculates within the building.  Elaborate computer control systems carefully adjust these damper positions.  For the amount of moving air has to balance.  If you exhaust less you have to recirculate more.  Otherwise you may have dangerous high pressures build up that can damage the system.

It takes a lot of energy to do this.  Buildings consume up to half of all energy on the planet.  And heating and cooling buildings is a big reason why.  Because it take a lot of energy to raise or lower a building’s air temperature.  And keeping the air safe for humans to breathe adds to that large energy consumption.  If you stand outside next to an exhaust air damper you can understand why.  If it’s winter time the exhausted air is toasty warm.  If it’s summer time the exhausted air is refreshingly cool.

An Energy Recovery Wheel is a Circular Honeycomb Matrix that Rotates through both the Outside & Exhaust Air Ducts

In the winter large volumes of gas fire boilers to heat water.  Electric water pumps send this water throughout the building.  Into baseboard convection heaters under exterior windows to wash this cold glass with warm air.  And into the heating coils on AHUs.  Powerful electric supply and return fans blow air through those heating coils and throughout the building.  After traveling through the supply air ductwork, out of the supply air ductwork and into the open air, back into the return air ductwork and back to the AHU much of this air exhausts out of the building.  That returning air is not as warm as the supply air coming off of the heating coil.  But it is still warm.  And exhausting it out of the building dumps a lot of energy out of the building that requires new energy to heat very cold outside air to replace it.  The more air you recirculate the less money it costs to heat the building.  But you can only recirculate air so long before you compromise the quality of indoor air.  So you eventually have to exhaust heated air and pull in more unheated outside air.

Enter the heat recovery unit.  Or energy recovery unit.  There are different names.  And different technologies.  But they do pretty much the same thing.  They recover the energy in the exhaust air BEFORE it leaves the building.  And transfers it to the outside air coming into the building.  To understand how this works think of the outside air duct and the exhaust air duct running side by side.  With the air moving in opposite directions.  Like a two-lane highway.  These sections of duct run between the AHU and the outside air and exhaust air dampers.  It is in this section of ductwork where we put an energy recovery unit.  Like an energy recovery wheel.  A circular honeycomb matrix that slowly rotates through both ducts.  Half of the wheel is in the outside air duct.  Half of the wheel is in the exhaust air duct.  As exhaust air blows through the honeycomb matrix it absorbs heat (i.e., energy) from the exhaust air stream.  As that section of the wheel rotates into the outside air duct the unheated outside air blows through the now warm honeycomb matrix.  Where the unheated air absorbs the energy from the wheel.  Warming it slightly so the AHU doesn’t have use as much energy to heat outside air.  It works similarly with air conditioned air.

Many of us no doubt heard our mother yell, “Shut the door.  You’re letting all of the heat out.”  For whenever you open a door heated air will vent out and cold air will migrate in.  Making it cooler for awhile until the furnace can bring the temperature back up.  It’s similar with commercial buildings.  Which is why a lot of them have revolving doors.  So there is always an airlock between the heated/cooled air inside and the air outside.  But engineers do something else to keep the cold/hot/humid air outside when people open doors.  They design the AHU control system to maintain a higher pressure inside the building than there is outside of the building.  So when people open doors air blows out.  Not in.  This keeps cold air from leaking into the building.  Allowing people to work comfortably near these doors without getting a cold blast of air whenever they open.  It allows people to work along exterior windows and walls without feeling any cold drafts.  And it also helps to keep any bad smells from outside getting into the building.

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Iron, Steel, the Steam Engine, Railroads, the Bessemer Process, Andrew Carnegie and the Lucy Furnace

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 21st, 2012

(Originally published December 14, 2011)

With the Steam Engine we could Build Factories Anywhere and Connect them by Railroads

Iron has been around for a long time.  The Romans used it.  And so did the British centuries later.  They kicked off the Industrial Revolution with iron.  And ended it with steel.  Which was nothing to sneeze at.  For the transition from iron to steel changed the world.  And the United States.  For it was steel that made the United States the dominant economy in the world.

The Romans mined coal in England and Wales.  Used it as a fuel for ovens to dry grain.  And for smelting iron ore.  After the Western Roman Empire collapsed, so did the need for coal.  But it came back.  And the demand was greater than ever.  Finding coal, though, required deeper holes.  Below the water table.  And holes below the water table tended to fill up with water.  To get to the coal, then, you had to pump out the water.  They tried different methods.  But the one that really did the trick was James Watt’s steam engine attached to a pump.

The steam engine was a game changer.  For the first time man could make energy anywhere he wanted.  He didn’t have to find running water to turn a waterwheel.  Depend on the winds.  Or animal power.  With the steam engine he could build a factory anywhere.  And connect these factories together with iron tracks.  On which a steam-powered locomotive could travel.  Ironically, the steam engine burned the very thing James Watt designed it to help mine.  Coal.

Andrew Carnegie made Steel so Inexpensive and Plentiful that he Built America

Iron was strong.  But steel was stronger.  And was the metal of choice.  Unfortunately it was more difficult to make.  So there wasn’t a lot of it around.  Making it expensive.  Unlike iron.  Which was easier to make.  You heated up (smelted) iron ore to burn off the stuff that wasn’t iron from the ore.  Giving you pig iron.  Named for the resulting shape at the end of the smelting process.  When the molten iron was poured into a mold.  There was a line down the center where the molten metal flowed.  And then branched off to fill up ingots.  When it cooled it looked like piglets suckling their mother.  Hence pig iron.

Pig iron had a high carbon content which made it brittle and unusable.  Further processing reduced the carbon content and produced wrought iron.  Which was usable.  And the dominate metal we used until steel.  But to get to steel we needed a better way of removing the residual carbon from the iron ore smelting process.  Something Henry Bessemer discovered.  Which we know as the Bessemer process.  Bessemer mass-produced steel in England by removing the impurities from pig iron by oxidizing them.  And he did this by blowing air through the molten iron.

Andrew Carnegie became a telegraph operator at Pennsylvania Railroad Company.  He excelled, moved up through the company and learned the railroad business.  He used his connections to invest in railroad related industries.  Iron.  Bridges.  And Rails.  He became rich.  He formed a bridge company.  And an ironworks.  Traveling in Europe he saw the Bessemer process.  Impressed, he took that technology and created the Lucy furnace.  Named after his wife.  And changed the world.  His passion to constantly reduce costs led him to vertical integration.  Owning and controlling the supply of raw materials that fed his industries.  He made steel so inexpensive and plentiful that he built America.  Railroads, bridges and skyscrapers exploded across America.  Cities and industries connected by steel tracks.  On which steam locomotives traveled.  Fueled by coal.  And transporting coal.  As well as other raw materials.  Including the finished goods they made.  Making America the new industrial and economic superpower in the world.

Knowing the Market Price of Steel Carnegie reduced his Costs of Production to sell his Steel below that Price

Andrew Carnegie became a rich man because of capitalism.  He lived during great times.  When entrepreneurs could create and produce with minimal government interference.  Which is why the United States became the dominant industrial and economic superpower.

The market set the price of steel.  Not a government bureaucrat.  This is key in capitalism.  Carnegie didn’t count labor inputs to determine the price of his steel.  No.  Instead, knowing the market price of steel he did everything in his powers to reduce his costs of production so he could sell his steel below that price.  Giving steel users less expensive steel.  Which was good for steel users.  As well as everyone else.  But he did this while still making great profits.  Everyone was a winner.  Except those who sold steel at higher prices who could no longer compete.

Carnegie spent part of his life accumulating great wealth.  And he spent the latter part of his life giving that wealth away.  He was one of the great philanthropists of all time.  Thanks to capitalism.  The entrepreneurial spirit.  And the American dream.  Which is individual liberty.  That freedom to create and produce.  Like Carnegie did.  Just as entrepreneurs everywhere have been during since we allowed them to profit from risk taking.

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Wells, Cesspools, Night Soil, 1854 Broad Street Cholera Outbreak, Fresh Water, Sanitation, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 10th, 2012

History 101

Overflowing Cesspools in 1854 London led to a Cholera Outbreak along Broad Street

People eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  This made moving into cities a little more complicated than living in the country.  Or on a farm.  Where you drilled a well for your drinking water.  And built an outhouse (or privy) to do your business in.  Basically a small structure over a hole in the ground to provide a little privacy while you contemplated world affairs.  You kept the two separated so your business didn’t seep into the water table that fed your well.  As people moved into cities they brought their poop and pee with them.  Obviously.  And before plumbing and sanitary sewer systems people used chamber pots and dumped them out of their windows after using them.  Or built cesspits (or cesspools) to store their human waste.  Under their houses.  Where the liquid would leach into the ground.  While the solids broke down.  As the pile of the remaining solid waste grew men came around at night to remove this ‘night soil’.  Which they turned into fertilizer.

There were drawbacks with this, though.  For human waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Which made it a little risky to use as fertilizer.  Worse were these disease-causing pathogens leaching into our drinking water.  Which it did in London.  In 1854.  In the Soho district of London.  Where the new sanitary sewers did not yet reach.  On Broad Street.  That ran along the River Thames.  Where the water table is relatively high.  So when you drill a well you don’t have to go too deep.  Or you could get your water directly from the River Thames.  As the city’s population grew more and more people packed into houses.  Greatly increasing the production of human waste.  Quickly filling the cesspools beneath their homes.  And as they filled to capacity they overflowed.  And leached into that high water table.  And into the River Thames.   Which took in this burgeoning growth of disease-causing pathogens.

But then people start getting sick.  A lot of them even dying.  From a nasty outbreak of cholera.  Spread by disease-causing pathogens.  Back then people thought ‘bad air’ caused cholera to spread.  As well as other diseases.  Something John Snow refused to believe.  So he studied the pattern of deaths.  And he found a common factor.  The people who were dying drew their water from the public pump on Broad Street.  Determining that the source of the cholera outbreak wasn’t ‘bad air’.  But bad water.  Coming from that pump.  Contaminated from those overflowing cesspools.  Such that people were drinking their own waste.  This marked a new beginning in public health.  And public sanitation.  Perhaps the greatest of public goods that allows people to live in crowded cities.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami took out the Systems that kept Wastewater from Contaminating Fresh Drinking Water 

As cities and regions became more populated this balancing act of fresh water and sanitation became more critical.  Where fresh water flowed into our homes and wastewater flowed out and into the sanitary sewer system.  And on to the wastewater treatment plant.  Where treatment made the water safe to reenter the ecosystem.  And our drinking water supplies.  If all the pieces worked well the water flowed in only one direction.  Towards the wastewater treatment plant.  But if something should happen to interrupt or reverse that flow the wastewater would contaminate our drinking water.  And, sadly, something often happens.  Events that damage the infrastructure that manages that flow.  Such as war.  Earthquakes.  And tsunamis.

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, December 26, 2004, created a massive tsunami.  Sending walls of water as high as 50 feet crashing into Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and other coastal regions surrounding the Indian Ocean.  The damage these waves caused was devastating.   The advancing water just swept away communities on the shore.  After the waves receded more than 150,000 were dead or missing.  Millions were homeless.  In a hot and humid climate.  Where corpses everywhere began to decompose.  And injured people with open wounds invited infection.  As bad as the horror of that day was there might be worse yet to come.  For the conditions were perfect for pandemic disease.  For included in that destruction was the infrastructure that managed that water flow to wastewater treatment plants.

This was the greatest fear.  The tsunami waves wiped out the electrical grids that powered the pumps that maintained that water flow.  So the wastewater backed up into the drinking water.  Dense populations in tropical conditions with no fresh drinking water available to drink and with raw sewage backing up into the streets spelled a world of trouble.  Because people need to eat and drink.  And, as a consequence, they poop and pee.  But when the infrastructure is gone that separates the one from the other humans can’t live for long.  Because their waste is full of disease-causing pathogens.  Especially when the prevailing weather conditions create a natural incubator for these diseases.

In America’s most Populated Cities you can Turn On Any Water Tap and Drink the Water without Worrying about Cholera

Thankfully those areas hit by the 2004 tsunami did not suffer greater population losses due to outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Thanks to a fast-acting international community.  Providing some $14 billion in humanitarian aid.  Delivered in large part by the U.S. Navy and other military forces.  Who possessed the resources to move that aid inland to where the people needed it.  Chief among that aid was fresh drinking water.  And sanitation facilities.  To prevent the spread of disease.

It took some time to understand the connection between clean drinking water and public health.  But people did have some understanding.  Which is why a lot of people drank beer in early communities.  Because the brewing process killed the pathogens in the water.  Perhaps our first water treatment process.  They may not have known this.  They may just have correlated drinking beer to healthier living.  A good a reason as any to drink and be merry.  For those who drank beer did not suffer some of the same diseases that befell others.  As in the cholera outbreak in 1854 London.  Where the monks in a monastery adjacent to the outbreak area escaped the pandemic.  Why?  Because they only drank the beer they brewed.

Americans travelling to Mexico are careful about what they drink.  Drinking only bottled water.  Or beer and liquor.  To escape an unpleasant condition that can result from drinking the local water which is not as ‘treated’ as it is in the U.S.  Emphasizing a point few appreciate in America’s most populated cities.  Where you can turn on any water tap and drink the water that comes out of it without ever worrying about cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid or hepatitis A and B.  Which we’ve only been able to do for about a century or so in America.  While poor and developing countries are still struggling to do this even to this day.

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Iron, Steel, the Steam Engine, Railroads, the Bessemer Process, Andrew Carnegie and the Lucy Furnace

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 14th, 2011

Technology 101

With the Steam Engine we could Build Factories Anywhere and Connect them by Railroads

Iron has been around for a long time.  The Romans used it.  And so did the British centuries later.  They kicked off the Industrial Revolution with iron.  And ended it with steel.  Which was nothing to sneeze at.  For the transition from iron to steel changed the world.  And the United States.  For it was steel that made the United States the dominant economy in the world.

The Romans mined coal in England and Wales.  Used it as a fuel for ovens to dry grain.  And for smelting iron ore.  After the Western Roman Empire collapsed, so did the need for coal.  But it came back.  And the demand was greater than ever.  Finding coal, though, required deeper holes.  Below the water table.  And holes below the water table tended to fill up with water.  To get to the coal, then, you had to pump out the water.  They tried different methods.  But the one that really did the trick was James Watt’s steam engine attached to a pump.

The steam engine was a game changer.  For the first time man could make energy anywhere he wanted.  He didn’t have to find running water to turn a waterwheel.  Depend on the winds.  Or animal power.  With the steam engine he could build a factory anywhere.  And connect these factories together with iron tracks.  On which a steam-powered locomotive could travel.  Ironically, the steam engine burned the very thing James Watt designed it to help mine.  Coal.

Andrew Carnegie made Steel so Inexpensive and Plentiful that he Built America

Iron was strong.  But steel was stronger.  And was the metal of choice.  Unfortunately it was more difficult to make.  So there wasn’t a lot of it around.  Making it expensive.  Unlike iron.  Which was easier to make.  You heated up (smelted) iron ore to burn off the stuff that wasn’t iron from the ore.  Giving you pig iron.  Named for the resulting shape at the end of the smelting process.  When the molten iron was poured into a mold.  There was a line down the center where the molten metal flowed.  And then branched off to fill up ingots.  When it cooled it looked like piglets suckling their mother.  Hence pig iron.

Pig iron had a high carbon content which made it brittle and unusable.  Further processing reduced the carbon content and produced wrought iron.  Which was usable.  And the dominate metal we used until steel.  But to get to steel we needed a better way of removing the residual carbon from the iron ore smelting process.  Something Henry Bessemer discovered.  Which we know as the Bessemer process.  Bessemer mass-produced steel in England by removing the impurities from pig iron by oxidizing them.  And he did this by blowing air through the molten iron.

Andrew Carnegie became a telegraph operator at Pennsylvania Railroad Company.  He excelled, moved up through the company and learned the railroad business.  He used his connections to invest in railroad related industries.  Iron.  Bridges.  And Rails.  He became rich.  He formed a bridge company.  And an ironworks.  Traveling in Europe he saw the Bessemer process.  Impressed, he took that technology and created the Lucy furnace.  Named after his wife.  And changed the world.  His passion to constantly reduce costs led him to vertical integration.  Owning and controlling the supply of raw materials that fed his industries.  He made steel so inexpensive and plentiful that he built America.  Railroads, bridges and skyscrapers exploded across America.  Cities and industries connected by steel tracks.  On which steam locomotives traveled.  Fueled by coal.  And transporting coal.  As well as other raw materials.  Including the finished goods they made.  Making America the new industrial and economic superpower in the world.

Knowing the Market Price of Steel Carnegie reduced his Costs of Production to sell his Steel below that Price

Andrew Carnegie became a rich man because of capitalism.  He lived during great times.  When entrepreneurs could create and produce with minimal government interference.  Which is why the United States became the dominant industrial and economic superpower.

The market set the price of steel.  Not a government bureaucrat.  This is key in capitalism.  Carnegie didn’t count labor inputs to determine the price of his steel.  No.  Instead, knowing the market price of steel he did everything in his powers to reduce his costs of production so he could sell his steel below that price.  Giving steel users less expensive steel.  Which was good for steel users.  As well as everyone else.  But he did this while still making great profits.  Everyone was a winner.  Except those who sold steel at higher prices who could no longer compete.

Carnegie spent part of his life accumulating great wealth.  And he spent the latter part of his life giving that wealth away.  He was one of the great philanthropists of all time.  Thanks to capitalism.  The entrepreneurial spirit.  And the American dream.  Which is individual liberty.  That freedom to create and produce.  Like Carnegie did.  Just as entrepreneurs everywhere have been during since we allowed them to profit from risk taking.

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