How Do They Do It?

Robert Llewellyn hosts the show that examines the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert discovers how firefighters train for their most hazardous jobs. He witnesses operations at the world’s largest traffic-management centre in London; and catches a glimpse of a gigantic tunnel-boring machine in southern Spain.

How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind daily life. Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) and a team of inquisitive researchers get their hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the modern world moving.

This week, Robert watches on as the Lancashire Fire Service trains its crews to tackle everything from blazing fuel tankers to search and rescue missions. He quickly discovers that fire training involves a lot more than scaling ladders and pointing hoses. Clad in sweaty, fire-resistant overalls, Robert finds out what it is like to crawl through a smoke-filled tunnel, before learning the importance of the different equipment and techniques required to put out burning gas and blazing oil.

Elsewhere, Robert reveals how London’s traffic is kept on the move. The average rush-hour speed in Central London is just 10mph – about the same as a century ago, when most vehicles on the roads were horse-drawn. Nowadays, however, London’s 8,700 miles of roads have to cope with more than 21 million journeys every day.

Keeping all those vehicles flowing smoothly is the job of the world’s largest traffic-management centre, where operators can directly control almost 3,000 of the city’s 6,000 sets of traffic lights. But even the lights outside the centre’s control can adjust to the flow of traffic, thanks to metal detectors buried beneath the tarmac. These detectors relay information about the number, size and rate of traffic, allowing the lights to adjust their timing automatically.

Ten miles an hour may seem slow, but the object of Robert’s next investigation moves at a mere 34 metres a day. Robert is in southern Spain to witness one of the world’s largest moving machines in action – the Tunnel Boring Machine, or TBM . Robert descends below ground to watch as a 1,500-tonne TBM slowly grinds its way under a mountain range, gouging out a new high-speed rail tunnel. It may be slow, but at the sharp end are 64 cutter blades capable of chewing their way through the rock with a thrust three times greater than the Space Shuttle at lift-off.

Robert Llewellyn hosts the show that examines the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert takes charge of a tugboat as he discovers how to manoeuvre a 50,000-tonne ship through a narrow lock. He finds out how water is drilled deep undergound in Texas; and reveals how a lightweight mountain bike is designed to handle the toughest terrain.

How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind daily life. Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) and a team of inquisitive researchers get their hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the modern world moving.

This week, Robert heads to Bristol, where the busy port is subject to the second largest tidal range in the world. This means that ships can only enter and leave the docks during a few hours around high tide. Steering 50,000-tonne container ships through the narrow dock entrance is the job of the port’s powerful fleet of tugs.

Robert is on hand to take control of a 4,000- horsepower Svitzer Bristol. This compact little tug tractor is unlike a conventional ship in that it has no rudder and, consequently, no steering wheel. Instead the tug has two levers which control the direction and thrust of two propulsion units beneath the centre of the ship. This unusual arrangement enables the tug to turn on the spot.

Robert’s next mission takes him to the arid landscape of Texas. A couple of hundred metres below ground lies a vast reservoir of naturally clean fresh water covering an area three times the size of Cornwall. The reservoir is known as the Edwards Aquifer and is made out of a vast layer of limestone rock, riddled with tunnels and caves.

Tapped by a series of deep wells, the reservoir supplies San Antonio and its surroundings with more than 500 billion litres of fresh water a year. In total, it stores more than 60 trillion litres – enough to keep San Antonio supplied for over a hundred years. Each square metre of Texas farmland has to be irrigated with more than 500 litres of water anually – which means the Edwards Aquifer is as valuable as the region’s many oil fields.

Also this week, Robert discovers the secrets of a vehicle that is twice as popular worldwide as the motorcar. Every year more than 100 million bicycles are sold and, although most of them are made in China and Taiwan, the world’s biggest buyers of bicycles are Americans.

Almost a third of the 18 million bicycles sold each year in the USA are mountain bikes. Their unique construction owes much to the work of a onetime Formula 1 racing-car designer. For over a decade, Brit John Whyte has been working for top bike manufacturer Marin, where he has produced some of the world’s best mountain bikes. These quality designs combine strong lightweight materials with hard-wearing suspensions and tough brakes. But despite advances in materials and design, building a high-end mountain bike is still done largely by hand.

Robert Llewellyn hosts the show that examines the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, Robert explores how drinks cans are massproduced; witnesses the construction of the first new steam locomotive to be built in Britain in over 40 years; and learns how golf clubs are made.

How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind our daily lives. Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) and a team of inquisitive researchers get their hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the modern world moving.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the production of the world’s first aluminium can. Since that time, they have become so popular that 23.5 million are used in the UK every day, and a total of 400 billion are produced throughout the world every year. If all these cans were stacked on top of each other, the resultant structure would stand at over 164 million times the height of Canary Wharf Tower, reaching a quarter of the way to the sun.

Cans are made in two pieces, stamped out of sheets of metal at a rate of 100,000 an hour. The characteristic concave base helps the can cope with fizzy drinks that can reach pressures of over 90 pounds per square inch. The slightly narrower neck at the top of the can was introduced to reduce the size and weight of metal in the lid. It only saves a few grams per can, but it adds up to more than a million tonnes a year.

In August 1968, British Rail’s last mainline steam train pulled into Liverpool nine minutes late, marking the end of the age of steam. Or at least it would have been the end of the age, if it were not for the thousands of people who still work on steam heritage railways – and the millions who visit them every year. Revisiting the past, Robert discovers how a vintage steam train is fired and driven along one of the country’s longest heritage lines, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. He then travels to Darlington to witness the construction of Britain’s first new steam locomotive since Evening Star was built in 1960.

Using original drawings – and a bit of ingenuity where the faded designs are not legible – the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust has spent over £3million constructing a new Peppercorn Class A1 engine, which is planned to enter service in 2008.

Finally, if a bad workman blames his tools, then a poor golfer often blames his clubs. However, thanks to modern composite materials, metal alloys and ballistics technology, this excuse may no longer be valid. Robert learns how the latest ‘woods’ are made with carbon fibre shafts, and modern ‘irons’ are actually cast in stainless steel. Computer-aided ballistics technology is then used to analyse each golfer’s swing, ensuring that every player should have the clubs that suit them best.

Robert Llewellyn explores the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, he takes a trip 115 metres below the sea to explore the vast pumping stations, giant fans and double-headed service vehicles that keep the Channel Tunnel dry, cool and running smoothly. He also learns how a piece of string plays a vital role in keeping the world’s escalators moving, and how a robot workforce produces cars in the Malaysian forests.

How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind our daily lives. Comedian Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) and a team of inquisitive presenters get their hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the modern world moving.

The Channel Tunnel has been hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. After protracted delays, it has finally succeeded in connecting Britain to mainland Europe. But the most people normally see of the structure is a blur of lights as they speed through at up to 160km per hour. This week, Robert goes behind the scenes and below the waves to reveal the engineering marvels that ensure that 50,000 passengers a day have an uneventful journey.

In Folkestone, Robert visits a vast control room responsible for coordinating up to 500 trains each day. He then heads below the white cliffs to explore a vast cooling plant that chills the water used to counteract the heat generated by the trains.

Next, Robert rides one of the tunnel’s purposebuilt service vehicles to one of three major pumping stations. Here, any water that leaks into the tunnel is collected, sampled and removed. If water gets past the pumps, it is channelled into vast holding tanks known as sumps – each one bigger than ten Olympic swimming pools. However, with the pumps capable of removing over 250 litres of water a second, the sumps normally stand empty.

Elsewhere, Robert looks at another engineering marvel, one that can carry passengers over 25,000 kilometres a year without ever changing its position – the escalator. First introduced as a Coney Island fairground ride, escalators now carry more people than any other form of transport. With over 2.5 billion rides occurring every day, a typical escalator will travel half a million kilometres and carry more than 40 million people during its working life – so they have to be precision-built. Key to an escalator’s construction, however, is a very old and simple tool – a length of string and a plumb-bob, used to ensure everything is perfectly aligned.

Finally this week, Robert learns how one car company went beyond the call of duty when it set up a new production line in Malaysia. As well as building a state-of-the-art factory, the company also put up a sports stadium, a school, a university and a mosque – an entire new city just to house the workers who look after the robots that make all the cars.

Robert Llewellyn explores the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. This week, he takes a trip 115 metres below the sea to explore the vast pumping stations, giant fans and double-headed service vehicles that keep the Channel Tunnel dry, cool and running smoothly. He also learns how a piece of string plays a vital role in keeping the world’s escalators moving; and how a robot workforce produces cars in the Malaysian forests.

How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind our daily lives. Comedian Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) and a team of inquisitive presenters get their hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the modern world moving.

The Channel Tunnel has been hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. After centuries of delays, it has finally succeeded in connecting Britain to mainland Europe. But the most people normally see of the structure is a blur of lights as they speed through at up to 160 kilometres per hour. This week, Robert goes behind the scenes and below the waves to reveal the engineering marvels that ensure that 50,000 passengers a day have an uneventful journey.

In Folkestone, Robert visits a vast control room responsible for coordinating up to 500 trains each day. He then heads below the white cliffs to explore a vast cooling plant that chills the water used to counteract the heat generated by the trains.

Next, Robert rides one of the tunnel’s purposebuilt service vehicles to one of three major pumping stations. Here, any water that leaks into the tunnel is collected, sampled and removed. If water gets past the pumps, it is channelled into vast holding tanks known as sumps – each one bigger than ten Olympic swimming pools. However, with the pumps capable of removing over 250 litres of water a second, the sumps normally stand empty.

Elsewhere, Robert looks at another engineering marvel, one that can carry passengers over 25,000 kilometres a year without ever changing its position – the escalator. First introduced as a Coney Island fairground ride, escalators now carry more people than any other form of transport. With over 2.5 billion rides occurring every day, a typical escalator will travel half a million kilometres and carry more than 40 million people during its working life – so they have to be precision built. Key to an escalator’s construction, however, is a very old and simple tool – a length of string and a plumb-bob, used to ensure everything is perfectly aligned.

Finally this week, Robert learns how one car company went beyond the call of duty when they set up a new production line in Malaysia. As well as building a state-of-the-art factory, the company also put up a sports stadium, a school, a university and a mosque – an entire new city just to house the workers who look after the robots that make all the cars.

The fascinating series that explores the extraordinary machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living returns. In the first programme, presenter Robert Llewellyn discovers how high-speed catamarans are built to carry hundreds of passengers. He also takes a ride in a stunt plane and learns how to turn liquid plastic into contact lenses.

How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the technology, designs and processes behind our daily lives. Comedian Robert Llewellyn (‘Red Dwarf’, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’) and a team of inquisitive presenters get their hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the modern world moving.

Robert’s first stop is a visit to Australian boatbuilding company Incat – current holders of the Blue Riband award for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic in a ship. The secret to Incat’s highspeed catamarans is the lightweight aluminium and powerful waterjet propulsion units used in their design. These and other high-tech modifications enable crafts to skim across the water’s surface at speeds of 90 kilometres per hour while carrying up to 500 passengers.

Next, Robert takes a thrill ride in an aerobatic plane captained by stunt pilot Nigel Lamb. With aerospace-grade carbon fibre wings and a 350 horsepower Lycoming engine, the MX2 aircraft can roll at a rate of 400 degrees a second. Robert compares the MX2’s performance with one of the most agile fighter planes of all time – the Supermarine Spitfire. Seventy years after the first Spitfire rolled off the Southampton production line, the famous Merlin engine roars once more as the World War II fighter takes on the modern stunt plane in a race around the Isle of Wight.

Finally, Robert journeys north to discover the secrets of the soft contact lens. Millions of lenses are produced every year at Bausch & Lomb’s factory in southern Ireland. A special acrylic polymer is poured into moulds that are customdesigned to provide the required refractive curve. Ultra-violet light is then used to cure the lens before the final product is complete.

HOW DO THEY DO IT? lifts the bonnet on the modern world and pokes round recklessly with a stick. We too often take for granted our fantastically amazing modern world. They’ve made it seem so simple. And yet, a look behind the scenes reveals the extraordinary complexity and genius of the engineering which supports 21st Century living.

As our lives become progressively automated and mechanised, we grow further removed from the way things are made and how things are done.

But in HOW DO THEY DO IT? comedian Robert Llewellyn (Kryten in “Red Dwarf”, “Scrapheap Challenge”, “Hollywood Science”) show you the bits you don’t usually get to see. This series reveals all you ever wanted to know on a myriad of subjects including Fire Engines, Escalators, Golf Clubs and Baggage Handlers.

This fascinating series explores the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. In this week’s series finale, Robert looks at the engineering behind the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger airliner. He also checks out how the British A1 Grand Prix team performs a pit stop; and examines how a town in Holland meets Europe’s tomato ketchup needs. How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the designs and processes behind our daily lives. Robert Llewellyn gets his hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the world moving.

At any one time, there are over 200,000 people in the skies travelling on passenger planes. With that number expected to double in the next 15 years, how will airlines and airports cope? Aircraft manufacturer Airbus hopes the answer to this question is the A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner. It can carry more than 800 passengers and has a take-off weight of over half a million kilos. But in order to get a plane this big off the ground, Airbus engineers in Bristol and Broughton had to design some of the biggest and most flexible wings ever made.

Measuring some 45 metres long, the tips of the A380’s wings bend over four metres during flight. In order to be so flexible, each wing panel is shaped from a solid block of aluminium alloy shaved to a precise thickness – from 28mm down to just 2mm. Once the wings are made, the next obstacle for the engineers is transporting the giant structures from North Wales to the Airbus factory in the south of France. Before the wings can take to the air at speeds of 650 miles per hour, they are first carried at a snail’s pace on the back of a 96- wheeled transporter along a mile of twisting country roads, prior to being loaded onto a barge. Robert’s next voyage of discovery takes him into the high-speed world of the A1 Grand Prix – the ‘world cup’ of motor sport. As Team Great Britain prepares for the final race of the season at Brands Hatch, Robert learns the secrets of the pit stop. Every second counts during a race, so the driver is not the only person under pressure – how does the team behind the driver fill a car with petrol and change all four of its tyres in under ten seconds?

Finally this week, Robert visits the historic town of Elst in the Netherlands, where 95 per cent of Europe’s supply of Heinz tomato ketchup is produced. How do they make so much sauce? Every day, the Elst factory gets through enough tomatoes to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Mixed with vinegar, sugar, salt and spices, the tomatoes are turned into more than a quarter of a billion bottles of ketchup a year. But before the sauce leaves the factory, each batch must pass a series of rigorous tests. Not only must the ketchup taste right, it must also come out of the bottle at the right speed to avoid any messy accidents!

This fascinating series explores the machines, processes and structures that form the backbone of 21st-century living. In this instalment, Robert learns about fireproofing; finds out how miners search for specks of gold in Nevada; and discovers how a clever little device makes lifts safe.

How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under the microscope to explain the designs and processes behind our daily lives. Robert Llewellyn gets his hands dirty in a bid to better understand the technology that keeps the world moving.

This week, Robert visits fire-safety experts Warringtonfire to discover how they fireproof furniture, buildings and even glass. Modern polyester fabrics are designed to be inherently fire retardant, whilst new spray coatings help to keep metal cool. At Warringtonfire, Robert puts some of these inventions to the test and compares a modern fire-retardant sofa with an older model.

Next up, Robert heads to the hills in search of gold. More specifically, he is in Nevada to learn how prospectors find tiny specks of gold in rock. When the first pioneers ventured west on the gold rush, they crossed through Nevada without realising they were passing over one of the richest goldfields in the USA. Nevada’s Carlin Trend is a vast goldfield some 40 miles long. But the gold here is incredibly difficult to detect because it is found in such tiny quantities – as little as five grams in every tonne of rock. The gold particles are so small they are invisible even under a microscope. So how do they find it?

The answer is that the miners use one of the most poisonous chemicals around – cyanide. Gold and silver dissolve in cyanide solutions making it possible to leach the valuable metals from the worthless rock. During the last 40 years, mines in Nevada have produced nearly 2,000 tonnes of gold, at a value of around £30 billion.

Finally this week, Robert finds out how lifts were made safe with the invention of a ‘governor rope’ that moves with each elevator car. If the lift starts travelling too fast, the rope activates a brake, bringing the car to an immediate halt. Modern lifts can travel at up to 60kph and cover as much as 460,000km in 20 years of service – and all the time the passengers inside are safe and secure. This indispensible device was essential in the development of the modern-day skyscraper.

This fascinating series explores the machines,
processes and structures that form the backbone
of 21st-century living. In this instalment, Robert
Llewellyn finds out how wheat is harvested; visits
the cleanest place in Britain; and learns how the
world’s toughest crash helmets are made.
How Do They Do It? puts the modern world under
the microscope to explain the designs and
processes behind our daily lives. Robert Llewellyn
gets his hands dirty in a bid to better understand
the technology that keeps the world moving.
This week, Robert lifts the lid on one of the most
common foodstuffs of all: wheat. Each person in
Britain consumes over two kilos of wheat every
week. Worldwide, wheat accounts for one fifth of all food calories. But harvesting over 500 million acres of wheat every year is an immense challenge. How do they do it?
The process is only possible thanks to the power and versatility of the combine harvester. A single combine can harvest 50 acres a day, doing the work of a hundred men. And despite weighing more than 14 tonnes, each of these monsters has a self-levelling device ensuring that the harvester can work uphill without tipping over.
Next up, Robert visits one of the cleanest places in Britain – the EADS Astrium satellite factory in Portsmouth. This hi-tech facility assembles some of the world’s most advanced communication satellites at a cost of more than £50million each.
To ensure the satellites are delivered in perfect condition, the facility has to be absolutely spotless. In the factory clean rooms there are less than 10,000 microscopic particles in each cubic foot of air. This is especially remarkable considering that an average person gives off about two-and-a-half million dust particles each time they stand up! But how is this achieved?
Finally this week, Robert discovers how they make the world’s toughest crash helmets from rolls of cloth. The outer shell of most modern motorcycle helmets is made from layers of fibreglass cloth impregnated with resin and cooked at a low temperature. Fibreglass is used because it is flexible, lightweight, and – surprisingly enough – will break in a collision, absorbing some of the energy of the impact. The result is a crash helmet that can reduce the risk of fatal injury by more than a third.

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