Friday, January 24, 2014

Torque Curve

This post and the next link to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

that kind of car, but not that kind of burnout

Catechists, other church volunteers, and paid staff always run the risk of burnout. You know, knocking yourself out for Jesus until you're punch-drunk from stress and disappointment. It's nicely treated in a piece at Team RCIA, which prompts this post. On cars.

Generally speaking, when people say their cars are powerful, they're really describing their engine's torque, not its power. As my father's college textbook Internal Combustion Engines says, "power is a measure of the rate at which work is done," while "Torque is a measure of the ability of an engine to do work". People like what's called good tip-in, when a car pulls smoothly and quickly away from a stoplight at the first press of the accelerator; or being able to pass or go up a hill without a downshift. All that is torque-related, that is, how easily the engine does the work.

Intuition says that the faster the engine turns and the more gas it burns, the greater the torque. But that's usually not the case. Maximum torque is typically produced at a moderate RPM. Let's look at this graph of my Camaro's LS1 V8:

The light blue line is the torque curve. You can see that max torque of 330 lb-ft is available at about 3900 rpm. But if the engine revs beyond 5000rpm, less torque is available. Less ability to do work. Less durability.

This is how I understand my own productivity, especially when I volunteer. I think of myself as an engine. There's a point where my ability to be productive is maximized. It's not when I'm relaxing, and not when I'm overstressed. I always aim for that peak of productive stress and avoid going under or over it. With respect to volunteering, the best way to stay at the peak is to know when to say no, and then actually say no. As the Team RCIA post says, "We tell ourselves that we are sacrificing for the sake of the church or the people or Jesus." And that is true; but the point of volunteering isn't to sacrifice, it's to build up the church. So don't run too fast, and don't run too much, and you may run for a long, long time.