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What Does A Horsepower Actually Mean?

In 1781, the story goes, James Watt needed to convince skeptics to ditch their draft horses and buy his new steam engine. To prove his machine’s superiority, he measured a horse walking in ­circles to turn a grindstone in a mill. He multiplied the distance it walked by its ­roughly 180 pounds of pulling force, divided by the time it took, and came up with a new measure: ­horsepower. (His new engine did the work of 35 nags, about the same as ­today’s ­riding mower.) We still use his math to sell F-150s, but it can feel kind of ­abstract. So we came up with a few new ways to visualize one horsepower.

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