I-Search Introduction

Engine technology has advanced considerably over the last half century. We’ve gone from simple, mechanically controlled Otto cycle pushrod engines with one intake valve, one exhaust valve, and one camshaft to complicated engines that can vary every aspect of their function with the kind of precision that would have been limited to supercomputers from the 1960s. The bleeding edge of internal combustion technology is currently found in the hypercar trifecta – the Porsche 918, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari – all of which have high-strung, race-bred engines in conjunction with electric motors that make them effectively the highest-performing hybrid engines in the world. However, a much more pedestrian nameplate known as the Corvette has soldiered on for 60 years with nothing but a lowly pushrod V8 between the front wheels. It has consistently been the hallmark of an “affordable supercar” that could punch above its weight (and price) class with ease. Much has been written about how the Corvette has been refined. Much like the engine,  the interior, transmission, suspension, and control mechanisms have often relied on seemingly outdated technologies to save weight and keep costs down, yet keep the central premise of the car untouched – supercar speed at a sports car price.

The seventh generation of the Corvette has been on the market for a couple years now, along with a new V8 engine series labeled LT. It brings new mass-market tech like direct injection, formerly the purview of diesel engines. However, I will focus on the venerable LS series of engines, which ran for well over two decades. I will be answering several questions about their construction, development, and use in custom street and racing applications. How does the pushrod Chevrolet LS engine family continue to be a constantly evolving platform? How is material choice for engine components affected by the purpose of the engine? What are all the parts and labor that go into building and testing a custom top-of-the-line LSx-platform engine that can do double duty on the street and the racetrack? These are all well-worn questions, but I want to answer them in my own way because I dream of doing this myself.

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Final I-Search Question

How does the pushrod Chevrolet LS engine family continue to be a constantly evolving platform? How is material choice for engine components affected by the purpose of the engine? What are all the parts and labor that go into building and testing a custom top-of-the-line LSx-platform engine that can do double duty on the street and the racetrack?

“Good” Writing

Good writing is hard to define. Great writing is harder. But everyone knows what bad writing looks like, and how to avoid it – yet we fall into its traps repeatedly.

The concept of “good” writing is intensely personal, and differs from person to person. For an academic in the sciences, it means dense but concise jargon, filled with the necessary graphs, equations, and conclusions. No embellishing needed. For an expert on the Greek classics, it means long-winded monologues, a constant ebb and flow in the prose-that-is-not-prose since Greek translation to English is difficult no matter what, and to complicate matters, the poetic devices used by Greek writers are nearly impossible to translate to today’s run-and-gun style of communication (even though they are conceptually very similar). For a comedian, it means walking the razor’s edge between having the audience laugh with the joke and laugh AT the joke – which takes timing, sensitivity (or lack thereof), political awareness, and a hell of a sarcastic streak.

To me, writing is all of these things and more. Writing as an art form is the sum total of all the approaches that have been tried in the past, regardless of their success or failure rate. But historically, writing has also been a time capsule which carries the legacy of conquest and expansion – what is considered “good” writing even more so. The majority of accepted classic English literature carries the names of white, upper-middle-class men even though there has been substantial evidence uncovered in the past few decades that it was in fact their wives, daughters, or apprentices who actually wrote the books. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the ways in which the English language has been a tool of assimilation even as those who adopt it are rarely considered great writers. “Good” writing is a construct which is heavily biased towards the winners who write history.

Ironically, however, my favorite author is a white male upper-middle class man. Robert Jordan wrote the Wheel of Time series, which threw all preconceptions of fantasy out the window. He reinvented the genre of epic fantasy much as Tolkien did – but with a realistic world filled with men, women, and children who played prominent parts. By subverting the norms, he created a universe so real and tangled that I spent an entire month trying to create a character web simply because the mythology was that detailed. The only loose ends were the ones that he intended readers to pull on after his death.

His vision both for the books and for the readers was realized in full – through scholarly analysis, reader forums, fan-fiction, spin-offs of varying quality, conventions, and nonstop textual analysis of his characters and their backstories.

Now that isn’t good writing. That is GREAT writing.