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Breaking Stuff Puzzle 2: Weird Wire

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The manufacturers of a new type of wire rope terminals conducted a destruction test. This test resulted in the sample of wire rope breaking at exactly 10,000 lbs. The wire broke right next to one of the terminals. The rated strength of the wire rope was also 10,000 lbs.

“That’s great!” said the manufacturer, “This means that our new terminals are 100% efficient!”

“Probably not,” said the testing machine operator. “It is much more likely that those terminals weakened the wire, maybe by as much as 15 or 20%.

The testing machine was calibrated correctly. Why did the operator think that the terminals weakened the wire?

This is an obscure one, so here is what I hope is a large hint: wire rope must meet, within very narrow tolerances, a minimum breaking strength, or it cannot be sold. Bonus points if you can tell what detail in my description of the test might have made the technician skeptical.

If you think you know the answer, send it to We will randomly select a winner from the pool of correct entries, and that winner will recieve as a prize a copy of a book that I will be publishing soon. Details in the coming weeks.

Submit your entry by noon, Pacific Time, Monday, July 23. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 25.

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Fair leads,

Brion Toss

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  1. Victor Raymond
    Victor Raymond

    I think the key word is “next” to. If the terminal itself would have broken at 10,000 lbs then I guess it would have passed, barely but the fact that the wire broke next to their terminal would cause me to wonder what it is the about termination had to do with the wire’s breaking.

    July 18, 2018
  2. joshua gordon
    joshua gordon

    Isn’t the rating of a wire its working strength with a safety factor figured in , and not absolute strength of the wire? If that factor is 15 to 20%, then the wire should not have failed at 10,000 lbs. Insofar that it did at the terminal, then the terminal is suspect. If the test were to be repeated, with the same result, then there is something definitely going wrong somewhere.

    July 19, 2018

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