How Internal Combustion Engines Work

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2021

views of an internal combustion engine

Although it was first developed in the 19th century, the internal combustion engine is perhaps the defining technology of the 20th century. If you don’t quite know how they work, this fantastic interactive demonstration from Bartosz Ciechanowski is a great place to start. I lived in the country when I was a kid and helped my dad, who was a crackerjack mechanic, out in the garage a lot, so I know how engines work, but even so this is really illuminating, especially when it comes to the details. Turns out that an engine is basically just tiny cannons attached to a crank — and from thence the rapid industrialization of the world (and all the resulting benefits and challenges).

See also some of Ciechanowski’s other interactive explainers like Cameras and Lenses, Earth and Sun, and Gears.