Posts Tagged 'disasters'

1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

I came across the following video on Power Line, as part of a poll asking whether it or footage of the explosion of the Hindenburg Blimp best capture the sense of the Obama administration’s coming apart. I vote for this one.   If it does, indeed, come apart.

But that’s another matter. I have to say I found this video, which I’d never seen before, fascinating. My husband, as an engineer, had seen it before, early on in his engineering studies. It’s used now as a study case for what happens when you fail to take into account resonance.

I think it’s a study case for what happens when you think you know everything and are trying to save money.

According the Wikipedia, the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the US, following number two, the George Washington Bridge in New York City and number one, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which had the longest suspension bridge main span in the world at the time of its completion. Tacoma Narrows was designed by a man, Leon Moisseiff, who had worked on the other two bridges, but in this case had an eye to cutting costs. The original design projected costs at $11 million whereas Moisseiff’s was projected to cost $8 million. It would be “slimmer and more elegant” as well.

It was completed and opened to traffic in July of 1940 and collapsed 4 months later on November 7. There was no loss of life in the collapse save that of a three-legged cocker spaniel named Tubby, who was so terrified he refused to leave the car he was in, which the driver had abandoned.

I could try to describe the undulations, but since I have the video, I’ll just let you watch it. It’s only about 3 minutes long. I especially like this version with the eerie music of Christopher Payne. They say you could walk along the center line and not be moved up or down, even as the sides were roiling about you.

What this says to me, though is that Man is fallible and always will be, but never more than when he thinks he is not.

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The Volcano

Eyjafjallajokull. Even when they provide the pronunciation guide, I can’t pronounce it. (ay-yah-FYAH’-plah-yer-kuh-duhl). It’s a Black Swan!  Who could have predicted that a volcano in Iceland combined with wind and weather patterns would wreak such havoc, shutting down the EU for days and causing “the biggest airspace shutdown since World War II?”

Because it’s below a glacier, its magma mixes with the melted ice and cools more rapidly than would normally happen causing explosions that eject plumes of volcanic grit up to 30,000 feet into the sky. Unlike the smoke of a fire, which is mostly made of wimpy bits of carbon, this thing is churning out tiny bits of jagged volcanic rock (and if you’ve ever walked up a cinder cone, you know what I mean by “jagged”) and volcanic glass. Where smoke might clog an airplane engine, volcanic “ash” will tear it to pieces.  Thus airspace of most of Europe’s been closed down.

All sorts of people are stranded, many suffering the horrible tragedy of being unable to get to weddings, graduations, school, meetings and funerals. Even Prime Ministers. The airline industry is said to be losing at least $200 million a day. Warnings are going out that soon people may not be able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and many other things taken for granted that must be flown in from all over the world. The event has shown us how interconnected we are.

It’s also shown us how with all our interconnectedness and technology and sophistication how… weak and wimpy and out of control we really are. That’s the part I love about it. As one news story put it, “The eruption was a single act of nature, but it stopped the world in countless ways.”

Not nature, of course, God.

Below is a radar picture of the craters taken by the ELTA radar from an Icelandic Coast Guard airplane. People have compared it to Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream,” a work whose inspiration is thought to come from the blood-red skies caused by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa.

Bizarre.

And of course the thing is spewing smoke, ash, glass, rock, CO2 and I don’t know what all else, except that I”m pretty sure it’s pollution on a scale that dwarfs anything man has yet produced.

The poor Green Police. How in the world are they going to deal with the likes of this?


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