Letters to the Editor - Spring 2006 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Spring 2006

Letters to the Editor

Brian Black's article on "Why I need a Hemi" (Winter 2006 edition of Ivy Leaf) evoked strong reactions with some of our readers, inspiring them to share a differing point of view with Ivy Leaf. Ivy Leaf welcomes all of your letters and is happy to share your thoughts and comments as space permits.

Please E-mail your letters to srr5@psu.edu or mail to the Office of University Relations, Penn State Altoona, 3000 Ivyside Park, Altoona, PA 16601.

Is Hemi a "four-letter" word?

I have just read some of the current issue of the Leaf. The piece on page six by Brian Black deserves my comments. 

I note that he is writing and researching for a new book on petroleum. Having read his article, my first observation is that he needs to improve his sentence structure. All sentences have common ingredients; i.e., subject, verb and predicate.

Secondly, I would also encourage him to get the facts correct so as not to alter history. The Hemi engine was not first introduced in 1937.  His statements concerning the Hemi engine are erroneous as well as misleading. Perhaps purpose driven to further his obvious agenda. Black continues to distort the evolution of this engine design and its configuration to bolster his premise that Hemi is to be added to our list of four letter words.

Do I believe that $3.00 or $4.00 a gallon gas or diesel fuel is bad?—no I don't. The price of petroleum will be the common denominator for cultural change and choices.  

The enemy of fuel consumption is weight and poor aerodynamics, not solely that of engine size. If the vehicles on the highway today were to be stripped of 50% of their power—the traffic gridlock would be massive. 

It is not in the measure of human nature to go slower, to go backwards ... thank God.

Our future is based upon evolution—we are being taught that alternative sources of energy are also to be shunned; because they offend society, no windmills, woodstoves or reactors in my neighborhood ... try rubbing two sticks together or pedaling your bike up 4th St hill—call an ambulance with fifty horsepower.

Tell Mr .... Black to stick to the facts and sharpen his grammar.

David Freemont McCready
AUC '54-56

Political Propaganda

Please remove us from the mailing list of the "Ivy Leaf." I find the "From The Faculty" column "Why I need a Hemi" by Brian Black to be a weak piece of liberal political propaganda. The denigrating way it paints American culture is cynicism that I do not care to find in my mailbox. And it's especially disappointing that my alma mater prints and distributes such lame material.

Mr. Black needs to audit some classes in Engineering and Marketing before he jumps to his politically motivated and patently false conclusions about hemispherical combustion chambers. Much of the data Mr. Black uses to create his dark image of our culture is erroneous or wholly fabricated.

Some variation on the original "hemi" heads are used in almost all modern gasoline internal combustion engines today. Even some of the apocalyptically wasteful lawn mowers bemoaned by Mr. Black have hemi heads in them. The principle reason for the innovation and proliferation of hemi heads is that they provide more complete combustion of the fuel and air mixture (for History majors: that means they're more efficient!). The modern production internal combustion engine is a marvel of efficiency that has improved continuously since its invention. A responsible review of the history of gasoline engines couldn't possibly conclude otherwise.

Chrysler's use of the "Hemi" brand is very effective marketing targeting the Boomers who grew up in the muscle car era. The horsepower wars of the 60s, which Mr. Black attempts to portray as an especially dark chapter in our heritage, were in fact an intensive study in increasing combustion efficiency. In order to produce more power from the same displacement engine, manufacturers and after-market tuners agonized over new ways to improve combustion. If you actually believe that the "Hemi" engine in your new Grand Cherokee was diverted at the last moment from a shipment to Charlotte Motor Speedway as Mr. Black asserts, you probably also own a complete collection of Chia Pets and everything ever invented by Ron Popiel and David Oreck (and we in the private sector appreciate your support of the economy).

Mr. Black also offers up racing as more evidence of our hopelessly flawed culture of waste. But again, a competent review of technology that isn't colored by one's ideology would show the opposite to be the case. Much of the technology that makes modern production engines so efficient was spawned and proven on the race track. The gas/electric hybrids that Mr. Black wishes we all would purchase (even though they still cost more than they save) would not even exist were it not for the research funded by motorsports.

Mr. Black's misrepresentation of history to support his political agenda is irresponsible at best. A professor of history should be capable of researching and presenting actual facts to support his position without having to invent them. If his books are anything like this article, it was truly a waste of our natural resources to kill the trees to make the paper on which they're printed.

Robert Hoover '85

RESPONSE: from Brian C. Black

We certainly value the technical expertise and experience of our Penn State graduates. As we all have noticed in recent months, the world of automobility is changing fast.

In fact, shortly after the Hemi piece was published, President George W. Bush shifted gears in his State of the Union to urge federal initiatives to develop some of the new hybrid and alternative fuel technologies referenced in the letters above. We all have seen the culture of automobiles change markedly since this point--with television advertisements offering us many models of hybrids and urging us to "go yellow" and consider ethanol based fuels. It is a dynamic and exciting time.

In fact, current research at PSU is placing it at the forefront of this energy frontier. Such efforts can be seen at: http://www.engr.psu.edu/eei/

The only danger at such a juncture is that we may fear the technical difficulties of exploring new ways and new ideas. The value of history in a situation such as our current energy transition is to understand patterns and practices of the past that might help to guide us toward a more sensible future.

We all wish to ensure that Americans maintain the ability to "hit the road," but we are living in an era that asks new questions and, therefore, necessitates new answers. I am glad that PSU will help lead us in this important new direction.

Brian C. Black, Ph. D
Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies