What makes a car go? what should every 4th grader know? 8th grader? 12th grader? college graduate? what do you know?

Before you read any further, take out a piece of paper and write down your best explanation. Then grade yourself. Then date your answer and file it in a thematic binder labeled “Science and Engineering Journal.” This thematic journal will be a life-enhancing learning tool for the rest of  your life if you follow a discipline of asking yourself on a regular basis (say weekly, monthly) do I really understand how “x”works (eg. car, air conditioner, toilet), then test yourself with the writing challenge, then filling in the blanks by doing some research on the web and talking to someone that might know more about it. Then share the results with others.
EATING MY OWN COOKING – shorter and longer versions
Version #1 – The Miracle of the Internal Combustion Engine
One hundred and thirty two molecular bombs per second !!!!
Version #2 – The Miracle of the Automobile
Cars convert chemical energy of hydrocarbons into the mechanical energy of a rotating shaft
Version #3 – Elaboration
One hundred and thirty two very precisely controlled explosions per second generates
the energy that is then channeled to the wheels which exert a force on the pavement
that generates an equal and opposite reaction from the pavement that propels the
car forward.
More Specifics:
The Bomb: as an atom bomb splits an atom, a molecular bomb splits a molecule –
in this case molecules of carbon and hydrogen. For example, the combustion
of octane with air turns 2C8H18 + 25O2 into 16 CO2 +18H20 + Energy
The Four Stroke Cycle: induction, compression, power, exhaust –
can you visualize each? It’s a little miracle. And it’s called the
Otto cycle! History is weird: the auto cycle was developed by a guy
named Otto!
Camshaft, Crankshaft, Syncromesh, Dog Clutch, Universal Joints,
Planetary Gears: should every 4th grader, 8th grader, 12th grader
know how these components function? What better way to teach
That’s enough for now. This is the first in a series on the Miracle of the Car.
Thesis: we take too many miracles of every day engineering for granted.
Recommended Reading: Stephen Resler, Everyday Engineering.
Experts: please correct, elaborate, elucidate.
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to science
or engineering.