Superconductivity Handbook – WIF Into the Future

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Superconductivity

Powering

Our Future

Light-Driven Superconductivity

A follow-up discovery to electricity in the early 20th century was superconductivity, which is the complete loss of electrical resistance and displacement of magnetic fields when certain materials are cooled to a critical temperature.

Superconductivity has come a long way since its discovery in the early 20th century too receiving the Nobel Prize in physics in 1987.

There are numerous applications of superconductivity being developed and implemented and it is these applications that once again will change our civilization far into the future in the same way that electricity did in the 20th century.

10. ITER

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is a joint venture involving seven bodies of government. ITER is currently one of the most expensive public scientific projects in history. The goal of ITER is to prove fusion is viable by getting more energy out than putting in. ITER is being built in France and will be the largest tokamak ever built. A tokamak is a device using a magnetic field to confine a plasma in the shape of a torus. The amount of temperatures ITER plans to induce inside the tokamak will be between 150-300 million degrees Celsius. At those temperatures, the isotopes of hydrogen (e.g. deuterium) can be fused turning into one of the four states of matter (e.g. plasma). The tokamak will require large superconducting coils to create an immense magnetic field to contain the plasma. The challenge that lies ahead for ITER is vast because there are other means to produce fusion in addition to the tokamak. It is likely that ITER will continues on its path to become operational by the late 2020’s and will demonstrate that fusion energy is attainable. However, companies like General Fusion and Lockheed Martin will likely bring fusion energy to the commercial market before ITER ever gets turned on.

9. Quantum Train

Magnetic levitation (maglev) is on the verge of being adopted in many new modes of transport, but few are adopting HTSM (High Temperature Superconducting Maglev). Although maglev can be created by a number of different processes, the most promising are the companies who are taking full advantage of the Meisnner Effect. The Meisnner Effect allows trains to float on a permanent magnetic guide way. There is currently a lot of buzz around Japan’s proposal to build a HTSM train which could achieve 600 km per hour. Japan’s HTSM train developed by JR Central has its limitations due to extremely expensive cost but the Japanese government intends to develop a superconducting maglev line between Tokyo to Nagoya costing well over $200 billion until completion. A more cost effective HTSM train is known as theQuantum Train. A Quantum Train being proposed by the Dutch would modify existing railway and would cut cost significantly compared to the Japanese proposal.  The Quantum Train intends to exceed 3000 km per hour due to the adoption of patented evacuated tube transport.

8. MRIs

When a patient slides into a modern Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, superconductivity is what drives the medical imaging technique used in radiology.   MRI scanners use magnetic fields and radio waves to form images of the body. The technique is widely used in hospitals for medical diagnosis, staging of disease and for follow-up without exposure to ionizing radiation. MRI’s use strong magnetic fields and require superconducting coils that are cooled via liquid helium. MRI’s are certainly the most familiar application of superconductivity in the modern world. MRI’s have made a myriad of diagnosis varying from malignant tumors, schizophrenia, heart disease, and so much more. It is clear that use of MRI machines have proved to the world that superconductivity has immense benefits for the wellbeing of mankind. MRI machines in hospitals across the globe have saved millions of lives, all in thanks to superconductivity.

7. HTS Motor

High Temperature Superconductivity (HTS) is the driving force in the field of superconductivity. Historically, superconductor materials required very cold critical temperatures only achieved with the use of expensive cryogens such as liquid helium that operate at only a few degrees above Kelvin (absolute zero).  HTS materials operate at a much higher critical temperature (e.g. 70 K) and require much cheaper cryogens such as liquid nitrogen.  The typical motor requires lots of copper wire, materials and are highly inefficient when compared to an HTS motor. It is no surprise that the USA Navy is paving the way by being the first to apply HTS motors to their armada which will provide savings in energy costs while taking efficiency to a new level.

6. Elevators

The future of cities is leading to the Megacity; super dense populations of over 10 million residents or more. High Rises will abound and the way people are transported within these “walled cities” will change. The design of the current day elevator has not materially changed for over 160 years and has limited architects from building new, bold and completely different shapes for high rises. The use of new magnetically levitating elevators for skyscrapers will completely change architectural design for high rises going forward. Superconducting elevators will allow Megacities to flourish and will allow for theoretical Mega Structures to reach well over a mile high into the atmosphere.   Superconducting elevators take advantage of the Meisner effect and use a series of Linear Induction Motors to accelerate the magnetically levitating elevators cabins vertically and horizontally. The world tallest building in Dubai, Burj Khalifa, will seem trivial in height in the coming decades.

5. StarTram

It costs a lot of money to send anything into space, billions are spent yearly to send satellites into LEO and the International Space Station (ISS) has exceeded over $125 billion in costs. And because of cost, StarTram is still considered by overwhelming majority as unfeasible in today’s world. But StarTram would make it possible to send cargo and passengers into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  Dr. James Powell, co-inventor of StarTram, is considered way ahead of his time and a true “All Star” in the world of superconductivity. Dr. Powell invented superconducting maglev in the late 60’s and his contributions to superconductivity are substantial to say the least.

The principles behind StarTram involves 100’s of miles of connected tubes evacuated of air that would reach 14 miles into the atmosphere. A SkyTram space portal would be located at a mountain range a few miles above sea level (e.g. Mongolia) to negate some of the cost of connecting the tubes from sea level to 20 miles high. SkyTram’s tubes will be lined with permanent magnets while SkyTram’s superconducting maglev pods will be able to accelerate through the evacuated tubes (no air resistance) at well over Mach 20 to reach LEO. The estimated cost of SkyTram is over $60 billion and would take massive coordination, both political and business in nature, to make SkyTram a reality. As a species, we have always been pondering what lies across the vastness between the stars and it is absolutely critical as a species to survive to get off this ‘Pale Blue Dot’. StarTram would greatly reduce the cost of space travel and would lead to the building of starships such as the superconductive EmDrive which would allow civilization to travel between the stars.

4. EM Drive

Quite possible the greatest discovery in propulsion systems in the history of mankind is the implications of the EM Drive. The EM Drive was Invented by British engineer Roger Shawyer in 2000 and has been shunned by the scientific community for over a decade because the EM Drive indicates its breaking Newton’s 3rd law of thermodynamic, the conservation of momentum. However, Chinese scientists in 2010 and scientist from NASA in 2014 confirmed Roger’s EM Drive that by converting electricity into electromagnetic microwaves inside a specially designed chamber exhibited measurable thrust. The ramifications of the EM Drive means that no propellant is needed to propel a satellite or spaceship across the medium of space, just a source of energy (e.g. radioactive materials).

Despite the skepticism and controversy the EM Drive has brought upon the scientific community, the superconducting EM Drive version would allow increase in thrust efficiency by a huge margin. Star Trek spaceships powered by EM Drives could reach 60% the speed of light after a few years of constant thrust. The physics behind the EM Drive is so revolutionary that the superconductive version is years away and the EM Drive wouldn’t be limited to space explorations. Roger says it best, “superconducting EM Drives will be ‘powerful enough to lift a large car’ (under Earths gravity)”.

3. LHC

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), one of the most expensive completed scientific experimental project in history has brought the discovery of the Higgs Boson. As a result of the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the Noble prize in physics was awarded to Peter Higgs & Francois Englert and has brought some closure to the Standard Model in particle physics. Multiple experiments are being done at the LHC to bridge the gap between the world of quantum mechanics and the world of general relativity. The role of superconductivity for the particle accelerator has been crucial for LHC’s success. In order for the LHC to accelerate protons close to the speed of light, strong magnetic fields and a vacuumed environment are needed to keep the protons on their trajectory. High levels of electrical current are needed to accelerate the protons to high speeds and superconductive coils allow for the electrical currents to flow without additional energy and zero resistance.

In the decade to come, China proposes to build a much larger particle accelerator than the LHC; over 54 km in diameter compared to LHC’s 17 km diameter. The role of ‘atom smashers’ will play an important role to our understanding of the observable universe. Particle accelerators are capable of producing anti matter, at a current cost of $62.5 trillion per gram, and perhaps the cost of anti-matter will follow Moors Law in the coming half century to allow for practical use of anti-matter for numerous applications.

2. HTS Power cables

Currently, almost all transmission of electrical current is via copper wire. In the USA alone, 6% of electricity is lost in transmission according to the EIA.  That 6% equates to 10’s of billions of dollars ‘flushed down the toilet’ due to poor transmission of electricity. The case is a lot worse for developing countries like India. In 2000 India reported a 30% loss of electrical current in transition across their utility lines but has subsequently made improvements and increased the efficiency of transmitting electricity to 18%. A much more efficient way of transmission is through the use ofHTS powercables , which provides 0% loss of electrical current during transmission. High Temperature Superconductors, such as HTS Powercables, use much cheaper cryogens like liquid nitrogen (Nitrogen is 78% of earth atmosphere).  A gallon of liquid nitrogen is 4 times cheaper than a gallon of milk. HTS power cables have become economically viable.

HTS power cables also require a lot less material than copper wire to transmit equal amount of current.  In the USA, the DOE has multiple HTS power cable project across the country to increase the grids efficiency, reduce carbon footprint, and save money. The case for HTS power cables to be adopted across the globe is strong. Germany has tested the world longest HTS power cable line of 1 km and has worked without a glitch. The most mind boggling notion surrounding HTS power-cables, combined with Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies (ET3), is its capabilities to store well over 15 TW (terawatts) of energy on a global scale.

1. Space Travel on Earth

The future of transport is on the verge of becoming a ‘physical world wide web’ of evacuated tubes (ETs) via ET3 (Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies). The case for tube transport had reached its tipping point when Elon Musk met with the ET3 team 2 weeks before he made his Hyperloop announcement 3 years ago. ET3 has been 25 years in the making. ET3’s first patent was in 1999 and dozens more have been developed since then.

ET3 involves a series of factors: evacuating 1.5 diameter tubes of air via vacuum pumps, linear electrical motors, and most importantly HTS superconductors and permanent magnets. Car sized capsules enter the evacuated tubes via airlocks and each capsule holds a cryostat that cools the HTS material on each capsule. A few gallons of liquid nitrogen could keep an ET3 capsule levitated for 4 hours.

So much attention has brought upon the Hyperloop yet ET3 has gone through over 15 years of R&D and is ready to be built right now. ET3 also goes by Space Travel On Earth because it brings ‘space like conditions down to earth’ (e.g. an evacuated environment is a void with only a few particles per million; like outer space). The implication of Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) on the global scale will bring the world ever more connected. ETT capsules (800 lbs per) transporting food, waste, oil, freight, data, persons, energy, etc. will be able to travel over 400 mph in local Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) evacuated tube networks while international routes could reach 4,000 mph. Once Space Travel on Earth is implemented, it will have a far reaching impact on the world economy & would literally double the standard of living for all.


Superconductivity Handbook

WIF Future-001

– WIF into the Future

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 20

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 20

…Deke, is quietly blown away by how alliances are formed out here, where civilizations are separated by parsecs of naught…

Being and Nothingness No. 4 by Yong Sin

Chasonn is quintessential Seljuk. He and his race are closer to human than is Cerella. For better or worse, they rely on emotion more than logic, which includes a healthy dose of paranoia. Their systemic suspicion is not rooted in delusion, when reactionary retaliation may be warranted. Many of his kinfolk are stranded on those three isolated outposts.

Cerella speaks aloud, in the language of her husband, “We need Sampson McKinney’s instincts and his knowledge of offensive tactics.”

Now that the conversation is out in the open, Chasonn must avail a universal decoder to contribute, “You will need to add weapons to the Explorer. We have a disruptor that should integrate with your sensor array.”

“Great, but do you guys own the patent on a good old fashioned deflector shield?” Leave it to Sammy Mac to get to the heart of matter. “That light wave those blokes use sure does a number.”

“Blokes… I assume you refer to the Ÿ€Ð?” Setting aside his lack of trust, he takes the question seriously. The Seljuk are an inventive sort. “We do possess that technology.”

“Now we’re talking turkey, Chase!” Sampson takes the news one step further. “While you leave the dirty work to us, why don’t you guys work on a jumbo deflector, big enough to protect a planet?”

“We will equip the Eridanian vehicle with disruptors and a deflector shield for now. My historical genii will delve into your prudent suggestion. We do not know how far the Ÿ€Ð, if it is indeed the Ÿ€Ð, will take their aggression.”

The dealmaker in this group speaks. “It is not in my nature to condone offensive hostility.” Cerella makes eye contact with Deke, who is quietly blown away by how alliances are formed out here, where civilizations are separated by parsecs of naught(ness).

No reason for dissent from him, “These are extraordinary times, requiring greater measures of response.”

Cerella ponders making decisions in the stead of the established wisdom on Eridanus.

Sam & Deke McKinney cannot help but ponder the safety of Earth itself.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 20


page 24

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 199

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 199

…the American people are not about to tamper with the perception of perfection… perception being the trigger for reality…

Perfection in Octad, 2010 by Rizwana A Mundewadi

It becomes very apparent by the pre-election year of 2035 that no one has the stomach to mount a challenge to Crippen/Walker. Not even the garden-variety armchair billionaire, with cash to burn and no need of a good reputation, will waste his time or money. Oh, the Democrats have scrounged up a glossy young candidate for convention purposes, but that only serves as a checks/balance to incumbent power, thereby preserving a solid 2.5-party system for future use.

At this particular point in history, the American people are not about to tamper with the perception of perfection… perception being the trigger for reality.

There is, however, steadily rising suspicion surrounding the United States’ and Roy Crippen’s inspired pet-project: SOL. Once it is achieved, speed-of-light travel will give the creator and his nation the single largest advantage ever attained by man.

  1. Unless you count 5000 BCE, when the wheel was invented.
  2. Or before that, some ancient figured out how to start a fire manually.
  3. Or, after all that, anything from “The Wizard of Menlo Park” (Edison).

To those who are screaming foul, Roy Crippen reminds those earth-bound worriers that SOL is only possible in the darkness of space. During his various discourses on the subject, President Roy reminds the wider-world that when plans for Space Colony II were vacated, with each nation taking the cash-out option from the insurance settlement, gone are the days when every new technology is shared. For those who are jealous, SOL translates to “s**t-out-of-luck”.

Surely the usual defendants, i.e. Russia, China, United Korea, Talibanistan, will do their best to beg, borrow or steal the expertise, but Prez Roy has cleverly invited them to the technology feast, on his terms only, with pre-approved scientists. The former Aldona Afridi, using his Fletcher Fitch disguise, is in charge of (dis)parsing the know-how.

The Crippen dedication to the SOL Project is a given, with the trusting approval of the voting public. Of course there are the “Starships cause hardship” arguers, but they need only look to everyday improvements to their lives for moral validation.

And now Deke & Gus McKinney, having blossomed during the SOL (also the ancient Roman Sun-god) era at NASA, has their hand prints all over the wet-cement that is the speed-of-light. And though the stairs only go to the second floor, look for them to lift it out – off the drawing board and past the Moon.


THE RETURN TRIP

2nd Floor Upstairs Neon by Dean Harte

Episode 199


page 184

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 144

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 144

…Before we get sidetracked by sonic overload, I was trying to tell you – that I think I could fly the NEWFOUNDLANDER back to Earth…

Sonic Overload by Caleb Brown

“Your title as Commander is hereby revoked. We are on an alien spaceship and you cannot make anything work around here without my help.”

“That is true, but the rent is paid off ‘til the end of the year and the groceries are free.”

“Money for nothing and the chicks for free.. and the music IS free, that’s right, the slightest gesture sets off some out-of-this-world sounds.” What humans refer to as musical notes and reverberations, the Newfoundlians use a form of communication. “I really miss my Justin Timberlake Collection.”

“You do have a sexy back, but I do not miss that guy… Galactic Static is more my taste.”

“How did we ever stand each other’s taste in music, long enough to get married?”

“Before we get sidetracked by sonic overload, which we can’t turn off, I was trying to tell you that I think I could fly this thing home.”

“And pass up the rescue mission without them seeing us? And when we land, if you can land it, can we convince our own people that the NEWFOUNDLANDER means them no harm,” she teases. “We would probably be shot down by air defenses, thinking we were an incoming Korean bomber.”

“But Korea is harmless, remember what President Sanchez told the world?”

“The New Mayflower expects to find us more than half-starved and happy to see them, so lets let them be half-right.”

“Good point Lt. Cmdr. McKinney, but I still may try to fly it back just to prove I can.”

Try is the operative word Sam. You are light years from understanding their technology and probably 20 light years from the folks who do.”

“I hate it when you’re right.”

“Always right and when did you finally come to that brilliant conclusion?”

“But, but, but… with me and a crew of three, I think I could get us back to Earth!” Right now, he would be 1.5 short of that.

“Let’s just concentrate on studying these beings, their technology, and find out where they came from. We have the time to have a complete dossier prepared, in the 2-odd months we have left. We can ‘present it as a present’, this incredible discovery, to the world; Perhaps the greatest contribution to the world since the wheel or fire.”

“I was thinking the microprocessor, but you are right, let’s get to work.”

She was right again. They have all the time in the world; the difference being that Mars is currently their world and the word “time” means different things to different people.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 144


page 136

Tape, Teflon, Velcro, Virility and Mastercard – WIF Simple

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Simple Technologies

That Changed

the World

There are numerous examples of breakthroughs that humans have used or discovered in their existence that have catapulted us to the top of the food chain. The wheel, the steam engine, the printing press, etc. These advances are known to most people, and we realize that without those things existing, we’re still in the dark ages.

But there are also lots of little blips on the timeline throughout human history of simpler things between the lines. These technologies may not have the same lustre as the heavy hitters, but if you tried to imagine your daily life without these things being developed and perfected, you would quickly see that they’re every bit as important. Here are some simple technologies that changed the world in profound ways.

10. Duct Tape

That sticky grey tape that seems to hold most of the world together these days draws its history back to the Second World War. The military used the tape to keep their ammunition boxes sealed, but quickly found that there were tons of other uses for it. What began as medical tape was found to have incredibly adhesive qualities as well as inherent waterproofing, which led to soldiers calling it “duck tape,” referring to a duck’s wicking feathers.

Once the war ended, soldiers returned home and began buying houses en masse. They also took lots of jobs with construction companies, and told their bosses about this incredibly sticky tape they used during the war. The tape was used for all sorts of HVAC applications, but mostly for holding ductwork together. So “duck tape” became “duct tape,” but in 1998, a test of common HVAC sealing materials was conducted. Duct tape came in dead last. Quack.

9. Teflon Pans

When scientists in the 1930s developed a new kind of polymer that was superbly heat resistant and uber-slippery. They used it in war, because that’s just what was going on at the time. But it took until the ‘60s when they decided that it would be great for keeping food from sticking to pans.

And it wasn’t just pans–the non-stick coating known as Teflon changed the home kitchen for good by also being applied to muffin and cake tins as well as cookie sheets. Clean up was a breeze. The coating could handle high heat. The only thing they were kind of bad at was not killing people. The workers that produced Teflon were basically poisoned by the material, and that sickness was passed on to lord knows how many consumers. One of the components in Teflon that was responsible wasn’t banned until 2014.

8. Smoke Detectors

Think of all the things you probably take for granted in our homes in the present day, and smoke detectors are likely near the top of the list. Those little gadgets have saved countless lives, yet you hardly notice them until their batteries run low. They’ve become standard and required in homes these days, so it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t around. And they happened by accident.

In the 1930s, a scientist in Switzerland was trying to make a device that detected poison gas in the air. While it failed to pick up the presence of the tested poison, when he lit a cigarette, the smoke did trip the alarm. It took until the late 1960s before they found their way into homes, and have now cut fire-related deaths by half.

7. Viagra

A little blue pill that’s only been around for twenty years shouldn’t have such an impact on the world that it’s had, especially since it’s not cured any major disease, instead letting men experience the wonder of full erections. But Viagra has basically changed sex around the world.

In 1991, testing began on what would become Viagra, but it was developed with the intention of lowering blood pressure. But during the studies, there was a certain side effect that the men involved could not ignore. The development of the drug headed in the direction of restoring sexual health to men, and within ten years, 200,000 prescriptions a week were being filled. It changed the way men confronted diminishing sex drives. It also helped unknown diseases related to erectile dysfunction become treated when men came to the doctor seeking Viagra.

6. Credit Cards

A fixture of every wallet known to man, the credit card is simultaneously boosting the economy and bankrupting countless people with no financial acumen. The concept of “pay us later, we’re sure you’re good for it,” and then tacking on insane interest amounts is a fairly new concept. At least in card form. But they’re ubiquitous now, with around 18 billion in use.

In 1949, businessman Frank McNamarawas at a restaurant and realized he had forgotten his wallet. This made him envision a kind of card that could be used at multiple businesses. He started Diners Club the next year, and within the next decade, more and more banks started making their own credit cards. Fast forward to present day, and Americans alone possess over a trillion dollars in credit card debt. So in less than a hundred years, we’ve done some damage, haven’t we?

5. UPC Codes

You’ve seen that little box of black lines on the side of every product you buy, even more so when you’re struggling to find them in the self-checkout line. The UPC code (Bar Code) gets scanned, the price shows up, and it’s a pretty expedient process. But how did that get to become the norm?

In 1948, Joseph Woodland (who had actually worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear bomb) was responding to a query from a local store owner about how to speed up the process of buying products in his store. Woodland thought about Morse Code and its simple way of giving lots of information with dots and lines, so he made that his inspiration. His innovation could describe an item and its price all at once, instead of the snail’s pace of non-automated operations that most stores suffered through. The only thing that held back progress was the lack of computers readily available to read the code, so it took until 1974 when the technology began to roll out to stores nationwide.

4. Barbed Wire

Two problems faced the American West as it grew and expanded: cattle were getting loose and trampling precious crops, and there wasn’t enough wood in those regions to build fences. The Homestead Act of 1862 made it so many people could get vast tracts of land for next to nothing, so it was important that they be able to work that land and have secure properties.

Enter Joseph Glidden of Illinois, who patented barbed wire in 1874. It wasn’t without its growing pains, as the wire trapped dumb cows by the thousands, and cowboys hated their herds being restricted by the artificial borders. And those very borders that marked a person’s property also screwed over Native Americans, as these practices left them with even fewer claims to their ancestral lands. The Homestead Act required that a person build a home and work the land for five years before it would become theirs to own. The barbed wire was a metaphorical and physical realization that their way of life was over.

3. Velcro

Zippers were still very much the rage in 1941, when Swiss engineer George de Mestral came upon an idea while walking his dog in the woods one day. He noticed how his clothing and his dog were covered in sticky burrs, the pointy little things that always prick your fingers are you’re removing them. Under a microscope, he saw how the curved hooks of the burrs met with his clothing in an almost perfect marriage. Zippers were no longer the only game in town.

Zippers tended to jam all the time. Velcro, as it would come to be in 1955 (from the French words “velour” and “crochet”) didn’t have that problem. Though originally implemented in clothing, it’s now used in everything from sporting equipment to NASA craft. And whoever began using it in little kids’ clothing should eventually get their own medal.

2. Daylight saving time

Ok, so maybe not exactly a technology, but the advent of daylight saving (it’s not “savings”, by the way) time has changed a lot about our modern world. First started in Germany in 1916 as a way to enjoy the sunshine and to conserve electricity, it began to catch on in other countries around the world soon after.

In the United States, it was started in 1918 as a wartime practice. It was repealed the next year after farmers protested; the next few decades saw back and forth fighting and different start times for daylight saving across the country. Finally in 1966, the Uniform Time Act made time, uh, uniform across the country. The central concept, energy conservation, doesn’t really seem to be a benefit though. The stuff that uses the most electricity in our homes are things that get used the more we are home, if that makes sense. It seems that the money that gets boosted into the economy by people enjoying more leisure “daytime” in the evening is enough to keep the practice in use.

1. Transistors

Think of the devices that power your everyday life: smartphones, computers, tablets, etc. They all have one thing in common at their very core, and that’s the very simple transistor. The development of the transistor signaled the developmental shift from hardware to software, and it’s why technology has surged light years ahead since its inception.

A transistor is merely a type of semiconductor that either amplifies signals or switches them. Invented in 1947, it was a device far ahead of its time, and as computing devices grew and became more efficient, so too did the transistor. Computers got smaller and became household items, while transistors shrunk down to the size of a few nanometers. Those tiny transistors are one of the only unchanged (aside from size) building blocks of the entire digital age.


Tape, Teflon, Velcro, Virility and Mastercard –

WIF Simple

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #149

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #149

…This is the big magazine launch day. Judith prepares to greet Herbert Love and the young Ferrells at a continental eatery in the Rochester Arms…

The world is getting smaller, so-to-speak. Things happen faster. Turn your head and you surely have missed something. Important or not, the train of life chugs on, gaining momentum on a downhill grade. Boston, turn around, Rochester, student, turn around, you are an attorney.

“I won’t disappoint you, Mr. Hamilton,” states James Ferrell

Turn around, Judith Eastman and say goodbye to the simple life. Remember when: you were much unattached, you would test cameras for your brother, and you went home to a darkened flat with Frisky eagerly awaiting his chance to relieve himself.

The world revolves from night to day, revealing Harv Pearson and a budding national magazine. One has stolen your heart, the other your serene settled existence. She hurriedly piles her waist length hair on top of her pretty head in advance of greeting her house mate on this clear, chilly November day. She will find him on the daybed in her living room, just as she does on a daily basis. There are fewer and fewer true gentlemen in these United States, indeed the world; where in France a Frenchman would bed two women and then have his lunch. Not Harv Pearson, no. He is a throwback, yes, but Judith loves him for it. There is much to be said for waiting to consummate a relationship, even if everyone and her brother probably assume the juicy, yet incorrect.

This is the big magazine launch day. Dressed in her finest blue taffeta gown, she prepares to greet Herbert Love and the young Ferrells at a continental eatery in the Rochester Arms, the stylish hotel that will house the out-of-town players in the inauguration of the Pearson-Eastman Journal.

“Judith, where did you put my gray suit?” Harv wonders.

“Do you mean the one you wear with that red bowtie? Not today. I bought you one of those new tuxedos. It’s hanging in the hall closet.”

“We will look like a best man and maid of honor at a wedding!”

“Perhaps you will acquire some ideas from the occasion.” Judith is hinting at combining names, if it were not for the marquee value of her Eastman tag. “You see, George promised me he would have one of his assistants capture the moment for us – and you know how distinguished George looks for business.”

“Does he sleep with a three piece suit on?”

inventors poster“NO! He merely looks the part of the world’s leading inventor.”

Period.

Pearson withholds citing the surnames Bell and Edison, Ford and other cutting edge innovators. He keeps in mind that, before he arrived on the scene, Judith’s respect and admiration centered on her famous brother. He will muster up as much distinguished as a veteran news hound can. It’s not like he doesn’t cut a fine figure of a man, it’s just the stigma attached to what some folks have labeled “monkey suits”. And there is nothing like his tweed coat, cotton shirt and yes, a neatly tied red bow tie.

  “What time is our meeting?” He changes the subject.

   The doorbell rings from below.

    Judith beckons through the voice pipe, “Who is it?”

     “It is me, dear.” A voice echoes up the tube to the second floor.

     “Quick, get dressed Harv,” she chastens. “I will be right down to get you, George.”

      “I hear the early inventor catches the worm…. good gracious Jude, is he in the Greenland time zone?”

     “Be kind, Harv. I cannot remember when I’ve seen him so excited.”

 Wisenheimer-001     “You mean more than when he developed the high speed shutter?”

      “Oh, you wisenheimer!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #149


page 137

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #133

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #133

…With her hand still in his, Harv’s mind is busy wondering if she may be, “George Eastman’s daughter?…

This intriguing lady is about to take her leave.

Harv Pearson is letting opportunity slip away. He realizes that she would not know why thisJudith Eastman-001 stranger is asking dumb questions, when he actually knows much of the artistry of photography, merely little of new mechanics.

“No!” he blurts, eliciting terse indignation. He seems intimidated by the woman, not for reasons of business, rather his rusty methods in dealing with a female that he is very attracted to. If she had been a mousy frump, with thick glasses and shrinking manner, he would have already submitting a resume for possible employment at the Reporter. She continues on, lugging her heavy equipment.

Mustering up the last of his courage, he straightens his tie, combing his thick, ever so slightly graying hair, off his forehead. With notepad in hand, he presents his best journalistic look. “Please, Miss, I do not wish to be a pest…”

“You are about to achieve that very thing.”

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he extends his hand. “I am Harv Pearson from the Quincy Reporter.”

  “Quincy, Florida?”

“Yes.”

“I have read your pieces on the Gulf Coast hurricane. Very moving, I must say.” She frees a hand to return his formal greeting, reassessing him in the bargain. ‘Not so bad’ she thinks, now that he has been validated in her mind. It occurs to her that she values who a person is, rather than accepting them sight unseen. She still has a chance to correct that flaw in her character. Judith Eastman,” she offers simply, “and forgive me for my lack of manners. When I’m at a task, I tend to look past other present matters.”

She flashes an absolutely charming smile, heretofore masked by her tunnel vision.

With her hand still in his, Harv’s mind is busy wondering if she may be, “George Eastman’s daughter?

“You flatter me, sir; sister yes, daughter no. But a good guess nonetheless and no doubt because you are up on things.”

“I do try… is it Miss Eastman?” She nods for him, which is a concession for her, considering she still wears a gold band on her left ring finger, even though she has been divorced for going on ten years. Judith does not harbor many particular fond memories of the mistake variety, but the ring allows editing of potential suitors, at least the ones who care respect marital status. Harv Pearson never bothered to look, a case of dumb luck. “I truly believe that photographic pictures will take the delivery of news to a higher plain.”

“We think that as well, Mister Pearson.”

“Make that Harv and the Eastman vision in the discipline goes without saying.” Judith’s family is to photography, as the oceans are to water.

“I’m not sure about my artistic expertise, but I do take new equipment to the field. That’s why I am here, testing a commercial version of my brother’s hand held box camera.” She underscores her role in the success of the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company, now Eastman Kodak.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #133


page 121

When Bad Goes Happen – WIF Engineering Boo Boos

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Tragic Engineering

Miscalculations

In Space and Terra Firma

Engineers are one of the most important behind-the-scenes groups of people, and most of us just take them and their work for granted. The truth is that there can only be so many designers, and the vast majority of engineers do the un-glamorous, but no less important work, of building, testing, and improving things for safety to make sure nobody gets hurt and no one has to pay for large amounts of property damages. However, when you don’t hire enough skilled engineers to properly focus on safety, and do that all-important work that they do, you can end up with examples like the 10 tragic events in today’s list.

10. The Deepwater Horizon Disaster Gushed 130 Million Tons Of Oil Into The Ocean

Back in 2010, BP’s Deepwater oil rig, operated by the Switzerland based company Transocean Ltd., suffered a massive blowout, and the world watched in shock and horror. Eleven people died and 17 were injured in the initial blowout, and immediately people wanted to know how it had happened. But soon, something even more important became apparent: Due to the fact that the well was 35,055 feet under water, which was far deeper than any well in existence (and the only one that was in truly deep water), the oil that started leaking out quickly became a huge concern.

For years BP and Transocean had contended to regulators that their oil rig was fine because they were prepared for cleanup, but all they had were the same techniques that worked in shallow water. No company, BP or otherwise, had any real plan for how to stop a gushing oil leak coming out of the ocean floor in actually deep water. BP took 87 days before they managed to plug the leak, and during that time an estimated 130 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, with the Audubon Society estimating a good one million birds and other marine life were killed by the spill. As for how it all occurred, it turned out there wasn’t a single reason the oil rig suffered a blowout. It was caused by multiple failures that could have been prevented in time if not for lax regulators, and a lax company culture from both BP and Transocean Ltd.

9. Earthquakes May Have Damaged The Fukushima Reactors Long Before The Tsunami

Most people know that that there was a meltdown at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after a tsunami several years back, but many don’t know the official story — or at least what some suspect is the true cause. The official story is that an earthquake knocked out the power to the plant, but apart from that it left the plant largely unharmed and functioning just fine. In fact, according to this official story, the plant only failed when the tsunami came along and destroyed their backup generators, after which the plant’s cooling system stopped working and the meltdown occurred.

However, investigative reporters who interviewed workers that had been at the plant when the earthquake occurred offer a version of events that differs a bit from that of the Japanese government. Many of them claim they saw significant damage to pipes, some of which led to cooling systems for the reactors. Others saw serious structural damage or other issues and claim they were already told to evacuate because of oxygen tanks exploding and pipes bursting well before the tsunami hit. Then, as they were leaving, the tsunami warning came and they had to go to the top of the building to wait to be rescued. While the government version of the events calls into question the safety of a reactor near the coast (due to the possibility of a tsunami), the second version of events calls into question any reactor of a similar design that is in any kind of earthquake zone at all.

8. The Challenger Disaster Was Caused By An O-Ring, But Only Because Of Poor Decisions

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger was set to launch and it was going to be a truly epic affair. A schoolteacher had been chosen to join the six astronauts, in order to show that even normal civilians could go into space, and children around the country were watching the launch from their classrooms on that cold Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, the festive atmosphere soon turned tragic as the shuttle exploded before reaching the upper atmosphere, killing all seven people aboard. The Secretary of the State at the time, William P. Rogers, formed a commission to find the root cause.

They quickly found that the technical cause was a faulty o-ring. This small piece of plastic helped form seals in between the parts of the rocket boosters, and doesn’t operate well in cold — it tends to lose its elasticity. In fact, the commission found that despite knowing the o-ring didn’t function well below 53 degrees, they went ahead with the launch despite it being 36 degrees outside that morning. The commission found that there were concerns about the o-ring, but that they never reached the top of the chain of command. This is believed to have been due to incredibly poor communication, and that the top brass was desperate to get the launch done in time for Reagan’s State of the Union, so they weren’t particularly interested in learning about potential last minute problems that would delay the launch.

7. The Columbia Disaster Could Potentially Have Been Avoided As Well

The Columbia was a storied space shuttle that had been flying for decades and was set for its final mission. After many delays, it took off with a crew of seven on January 16, 2003. As the shuttle was launching, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the propellant tank and hit the left wing. Engineers at NASA tried to look at it with every camera angle they could and see how bad the damage was, but it was hard to make out. Now, NASA’s top management was not particularly concerned, as foam insulation had broken off at three launches in the past and hadn’t caused any critical damage. However, some felt that this time it might be critical, and pushed to use satellites to get a closer look.

Unfortunately, no one took that look during the Columbia’s two week mission, partly because some of the top brass felt there would be nothing they could do at that point even if critical damage had occurred. Then, on February 1, 2003, the space shuttle reentered Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart, killing all aboard and scattering debris far into the distance. The damage to the wing allowed the heat from reentry — along with the wind — to basically tear it apart, and after that the rest of the shuttle wasn’t far behind. While those in charge had decided to do nothing while the crew was in space, thinking nothing could be done, they were wrong. Later studies found that rescue, or even a possible repair by spacewalk, could have been done — NASA’s top management just didn’t take the danger that seriously.

6. The Apollo One Fire Almost Put An Early End To US Ambitions To Fly To The Moon

On January 27, 1967, NASA was testing their Apollo One command module, in advance of attempting a potential flight to the moon. There were three astronauts aboard: Roger Chaffee, Ed White, and Gus Grissom, and they were bolted into the pressurized compartment to begin the launch tests. While the tests were not proceeding particularly well and they were having technical issues, things were not anything beyond frustrating until the call of “Flames!” came over the communications equipment from inside the command module. The workers outside did everything they could to get the door open, but by the time they had, it was too late and all three astronauts were dead — the Apollo program was then shelved for 18 months while the situation was investigated.

The United States lost three pioneering astronauts that day, but at least NASA did learn something from the situation. It turns out that a single spark from a faulty piece of equipment had spread like wildfire in the all-oxygen environment of the cabin, and to make matters worse, most of the material they were sitting on and around was highly flammable. On top of that, the highly secured door usually took a good minute and a half to open at the best of times, and with the extra pressure in the air from the fire, they just really didn’t have a chance. While this should have been something NASA accounted for to begin with, they made future doors much quicker to open, replaced the flammable materials, and made the air an oxygen and nitrogen mix that would not so easily spread fire all over the place.

5. The Boeing 737 Max Crashes And Subsequent Scandal Are Harming Boeing’s Reputation

On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 went down over the Java Sea carrying a full load of passengers — 181 passengers and eight crew members all perished. Then, on March 10, 2019, Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 crashed and took 149 passengers and eight crew members with it. While plane crashes are always alarming, experts noticed that there were similarities between the two crashes, and that both involved the new Boeing 737 Max Jet.

The system that allegedly caused all the trouble was called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Systems, or MCAS for short. The system used two sensors to determine the nose of the planes’ so called “angle of attack” and adjust it if it thinks it is necessary, even if the pilot disagrees. On the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the black box showed that the plane was dangerously changing the angle of attack, and despite the pilot and copilot’s constant and best efforts, they could not prevent an uncontrollable nosedive.

Boeing has been under fire because regulators around the world allege the system did not have enough redundancy to spot malfunctions, that pilots were not given proper knowledge of it (or proper training for it), and that the limited information they did give on how to deal with a malfunction was used by the pilot and copilot in the Ethiopian Airlines crash and that it did not save them. Due to the loss in reputation, Boeing has had to scale back production to 42 jets from 52 and the 737 Max remains grounded worldwide until Boeing satisfies people’s fears.

4. The Chernobyl Disaster Was Caused By A Poorly Done Safety Test And Inadequate Design

The Chernobyl disaster occurred on April 26, 1986, when Soviet engineers were doing a test on the number 4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in order to ascertain if the emergency water pumps could be run on inertial power. In order to prepare for their test, they actually disabled the emergency safety systems of the reactor the night before. They also removed quite a few of the control rods for the reactor as well, which are used to control power output. When their experiment didn’t work and they started to worry about meltdown, they reinserted all 200 control rods at once, which turned out to be a fatal mistake. The rods had graphite tips, which when inserted under already volatile circumstances caused a chemical reaction that blew the concrete and steel roof right off the reactor.

The disaster killed two people immediately, and at least 28 workers later succumbed to radiation poisoning. The fallout is said to have poisoned thousands and it led the entire world to put a lot more thought and effort into nuclear safety. The disaster was such a gigantic blow to the Soviet Union that Mikhail Gorbachev later lamented that it may have been Chernobyl that truly led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

3. The Grenfell Tower Fire Highlighted The Possibility Of Future, Similar Tragedies

On June 14, 2017, a fire rapidly spread through Grenfell Tower in West London. By the time the smoke had cleared, upwards of 80 people had died and dozens more were injured. The tragedy became global news and the entire world looked on in horror, as we all watched the building burn before our eyes. It was quickly discovered that the reason the fire was able to spread so rapidly was due to a cladding on the outside of the building, which was there both to spruce up the design and also slightly increase energy efficiency. Now, this cladding is usually aluminium, and has some kind of filler inside, and those fillers can be fire retardant. Unfortunately, the filler in the cladding at Grenfell tower was highly flammable, and the fire quickly raced all around the building.

After the tragedy, authorities in London have now inspected a lot of buildings that have cladding, and found that most of them failed safety tests. This highlights a serious public safety concern, as it means there are many, many more buildings at risk of simple fires raging out of control.

2. The Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway Collapse Killed 114 People And Injured Another 216

On July 17, 1981, there was a Tea Dance at the Hyatt Regency Hotel In Kansas City, and the ballroom was hosting about 1,600 people. The hotel had four floors, and upper walkways that extended across the main lobby area. The fourth floor walkway was positioned above the second floor walkway, and a couple dozen or so people were watching the dance from the walkways above the lobby. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the fourth floor walkway collapsed on top of the second floor walkway, which then collapsed the whole pile onto the dancing couples below.

The aftermath was utterly appalling and rescue workers likened it to a war zone. 114 people were killed and 216 were injured. Many of them were crushed in half, and others were suffocated or dealt with other awful injuries. Unsurprisingly, an inquest into the matter occurred as people wanted to know why such a catastrophic failure would happen. The issue was the second floor walkway had originally been intended to be suspended from the stronger ceiling supports, but was instead suspended from the fourth floor walkway. As for how such a bad decision could be made, the change was actually approved over the phone.

1. The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 Killed 21 People And Injured 150 More

If you haven’t heard of this tragic story before, it’ll likely sound too bizarre to be true. On January 15, 1919, a tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses ruptured in Boston’s North End. The stories say that its initial speed was 35 miles-per-hour, and that it reached a wave of 25 feet high and 160 feet wide; 21 people were killed and at least 150 more were injured by the time all the molasses had settled. Many who were close to the explosion were simply pulverized, and others drowned in the goop as the kinetic forces dissipated and it turned back into its highly viscous consistency.

Back in the day they were never really sure what happened, but recent investigations have discovered that the tank was almost certainly just not adequate for the job. It was too thin, and while built to hold 2.5 million gallons of liquids, it wasn’t designed for a thicker liquid that might weigh more — like molasses — and had even shown signs of cracks that were ignored by the owners and operators of the tank. Some reports even say it was leaking so badly before it burst that children would come with cups to fill up from the cracks. It just goes to show that sometimes, on rare occasions, molasses actually flows quickly in January.


When Bad Goes Happen –

WIF Engineering Boo Boos

Big Better Building Part II – WIF Engineering Feats

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Incredible Modern

Engineering Achievements

Humanity likes nothing more than building insanely large and complicated structures, except maybe reading about large and complicated structures built by other people. Today, we’re going to do the latter. While the ancient people had some amazing engineering achievements, we’ve all seen an article or six about the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. As such, let’s focus on the amazing achievements of relatively modern engineering, such as…

Engineering HOF – WIF Into History

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History’s Greatest

Engineering Achievements

The history of civilization is replete with examples of humanity improving the world in which it lives. Through ingenuity, imagination, and hard work, humanity has spanned rivers, built roads, erected cities, and created the infrastructure to connect them. Some projects took centuries to complete; others were finished with alacrity, driven by immediate needs. Many were treated with derision by contemporaries who considered the vision of their proponents’ to be delusional. Some — the Panama Canal being one example of many — were completed only after a spectacular and expensive failure during earlier attempts. Still others were spurred by the competition between nations and empires

Spectacular feats of engineering preceded the term engineer. The master builders and visionaries evolved over the centuries from mathematicians (spontaneously, it would seem) across the globe. The Great Wall in China, the pyramids of the Maya and Aztec cultures, the cities of the ancient world all were accomplished by engineering, though the builders and designers were unaware that they were engineers. Over the centuries, engineering accomplishments were directed at the worship of gods and heroes, the improvement of societal life, and to simply celebrate the spirit of humanity. Here are 10 of the greatest engineering achievements in history.

10. The Roman Water Distribution System

Three centuries before the beginning of the Common Era the Roman Republic, later the Empire, distributed water throughout its dominions using a system of canals, pipes, reservoirs, standing tanks, and aqueducts. Entirely through the use of gravity the Romans distributed fresh water to cities and towns, as well as to mines and farms. Some of the aqueducts still stand, architectural marvels built by laborers under the supervision of surveyors and master builders. By the end of the third century the city of Rome was serviced by eleven separate water conduits distributing water throughout the city, and in the case of the wealthier citizens directly into their homes. Poorer residents resorted to public wells and baths.

The empire was serviced with water systems as well, operated by both local governments and the state. Natural springs were the preferred sources of water. Easements were established by law on either side of the conduit’s pathway. The waterways were liberally supplied with inspection points – which would today be called manholes – and the water was routinely inspected for purity. Lead pipes were used in some sections, though the use of ceramic piping was preferred, and sections of the aqueducts which were of concrete were lined with brick, to prevent erosion and to help filter the water. The system was so well designed and built that there are sections still in use for the distribution of fresh water nearly 20 centuries after they were built.

9. The Cathedral of Hagia Sophia

Built as a Christian church and later converted to an Islamic mosque, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia is today a museum, and an iconic image of Turkey. Originally constructed in the sixth century it has survived rioting, looting by conquerors, earthquakes, fires, and the ravages of time. Built chiefly of masonry, it is easily recognized by its corner minarets and its massive dome. Built and rebuilt many times over the years, it remains a symbol of Byzantine architecture, and for over 1,000 years Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world. Its design was revolutionary in its day.

The huge dome is set upon a square base, supported by four triangle shaped pendentives in the square’s corners. The pendentives carry the weight of the dome and direct it downwards, rather than outwards as the shape of the dome would otherwise dictate. Though the dome collapsed on more than one occasion, and was modified during rebuilding to include ribs which help distribute its weight to the supporting walls, each rebuilding strengthened it and improved the overall structure of the building. Hagia Sophia is a museum of both the Christian and Islamic faiths, as well as the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. It remains one of the largest masonry buildings in the world in the 21st century.

8. The Leshan Buddha

Carved from a single stone and completed in the early ninth century, the Great Buddha of Leshan stands over 230 feet tall, with a breadth across the shoulders of 92 feet. It is the tallest statue of Buddha to be found in the world, carved from the sandstone of a cliff overlooking the junction of the Min and Dadu Rivers in Sichuan. Ordinarily sandstone would be easily eroded by the rainwater which has fallen on the statue over the centuries. That it hasn’t is a tribute to the ingenious engineering which controls the flow of water through and behind the statue, which has served to protect it since its completion circa 803 CE.

The Leshan Buddha includes over 1,000 coiled hair buns, of stone, which are placed on the statue’s head. They were designed to collect rainwater, and to route it to a system of drains and drainpipes which allow the water to flow through the statue’s head and arms, draining out the back, behind the stone clothes and away from the statue, protecting it from the effects of erosion. The system was installed as part of the original carving. Originally protected by a wooden shelter which was destroyed by the Mongols, the statue has stood exposed to the elements for seven centuries, with its drainage system protecting it from erosion. Today the greatest threat to the statue is the heavily polluted air of the region, a factor its designers could not have anticipated.

7. The Erie Canal

Between the Hudson River and Lake Erie land elevation increases by about 600 feet. Canal locks of the day (1800) could raise or lower boats about 12 feet, which meant that at least 50 locks would be required to build a canal which linked the Hudson with the Great Lakes. President Thomas Jefferson called the project “…little short of madness.” New York’s governor, Dewitt Clinton, disagreed and supported the project, which led to its detractors calling the canal “Dewitt’s Ditch” and other, less mild pejoratives. Clinton pursued the project fervently, overseeing the creation of a 360 mile long waterway across upstate New York, which linked the upper Midwest to New York City. The cities of Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, thrived once the canal was completed, in 1825.

The engineering demands of the canal included the removal of earth using animal power, water power (using aqueducts to redirect water flow), and gunpowder to blast through limestone. None of the canal’s planners and builders were professional engineers, instead they were mathematics instructors, judges, and amateur surveyors who learned as they went. Labor was provided by increased immigration, mostly from Ireland and the German provinces. When it was completed in 1825 the canal was considered an engineering masterpiece, one of the longest canals in the world. The Erie Canal’s heyday was relatively short, due to the development of the railroads, but it led to the growth of the port of New York, and spurred the building of competing canals in other Eastern states.

6. The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge was originally envisioned by John Roebling, who had built suspension bridges of shorter spans across the Ohio River and at other locations. The project in Brooklyn and Manhattan led to an accident which cost Roebling his life, and the engineering challenges passed to his son, Washington Roebling. Washington was stricken with the bends early in the construction, and was forced to supervise the project from his Manhattan apartment. The engineering challenges were difficult; wooden caissons were sunk to the bottom of the East River, with men inside them to excavate the river bottom until the caissons reached bedrock. In the case of the east tower supporting the bridge, they never did. The tower rests on sand to this day.

It took 14 years to complete the project, from 1869 -1883. Often described as a suspension bridge, the structure is in reality a hybrid suspension/cable stayed bridge, with the load of the span transferred by wire cables to the towers, and thence to the bedrock on the Brooklyn side, and the sand over the bedrock on the Manhattan side. In the 21st century it carries six lanes of traffic as well as bicycles and pedestrians, though it no longer accommodates rail traffic, nor commercial vehicles. It was considered the engineering masterpiece of the world at the time of its completion, spanning nearly six thousand feet, and linking the formerly separate cities of Brooklyn and New York.

5. The Eiffel Tower

Gustave Eiffel built the iconic symbol of Paris – indeed of all of France – to serve as the gateway to the 1889 World’s Fair. Contrary to popular belief, Eiffel did not design the tower, instead purchasing the patent rights to the design from engineers within his employ. He then signed a contract for the construction of the tower acting as himself, rather than as his company, and later set up another company to handle the management of the tower and the income derived from it. The design of the tower was controversial from the outset, with artists and engineers complaining of its lack of aesthetic value. It was said that French writer Guy de Maupassant ate at the restaurant in the tower after its completion because it was the only place in Paris from which the tower could not be seen.

The ironwork was delivered to the site with holes for connecting bolts pre-drilled, and as they were installed the tower was brought into proper alignment through the use of hydraulic jacks installed near the four feet of the structure. Creeper cranes climbed the legs of the tower to erect each succeeding level. The tower was declared complete in March 1889, at the time the tallest man-made structure in the world. It reached the height of 1,063 feet and remains the tallest structure in Paris. The tower was to have been dismantled in 1909, under the terms of the original contract, but its usefulness as a radio transmitter gained it a longer lease on life. By the end of the twentieth century the idea of dismantling the tower was unthinkable.

4. The Panama Canal

The 51-mile long cut across the Isthmus of Panama was a dream for many decades prior to the French beginning its construction in 1881. During the building of America’s Transcontinental Railroad, equipment for use in the Sierras was shipped from the east coast of the United States to Panama, transferred across the Isthmus, and then shipped to California. Engineers for years studied the building of a canal before the French attempted to complete one, but the engineering difficulties combined with the climate and politics to thwart their efforts after more than two decades. The United States stepped in where the French failed, and completed the canal in 1914, after another ten years of work.

The canal is actually two canals, connected on either end with an artificial lake, Lake Gatun, located 85 feet above sea level. Locks on the two canals raise or lower ships to or from the level of the lake, allowing them to traverse from Atlantic to Pacific, or vice versa. The canal allows ships to transfer from one ocean to the other in just under twelve hours. It was the engineering decision to abandon the sea level canal design favored by the French and instead create Lake Gatun through the building of Gatun Dam (then the largest dam in the world) and install locks to raise and lower ships which allowed the Americans to succeed in completing the dam, which changed shipping lanes and inter-ocean traffic forever.

3. The Channel Tunnel

For centuries the British Isles remained unconnected to the European continent, a situation which many Britons favored as critical to their national security. Numerous proposals for a tunnel beneath the channel were put forth, but opposition within England and France prevented any serious efforts. Attempts to build tunnels for automobile traffic were started and stopped in the mid-to-late 20th century. Finally, in the late 1980s, after the usual political and professional maneuvering among governments, businesses, and financiers, work on the tunnels for high speed rail trains got underway, already bearing the nickname by which it is best known today, the Chunnel.

The tunnel was built from both sides, using massive tunnel boring machines – TBMS – to approach each other. The machines bore through what is mostly chalk, though the varying geology of the French shore created some difficulties. Both the French and English used the removed spoil for land reclamation projects. The tunnels were lined with both cast iron and reinforced concrete. When completed, the tunnel provided electrical power to the trains running through it via overhead lines. The tunnel opened in 1994, and today allows for a trip from London to Paris in just over two hours. The tunnel also allows for freight traffic delivering goods manufactured throughout Europe to be imported to Britain, and British goods to find markets on the continent.

2. Burj Khalifa

The world’s tallest structure as of 2019, Burj Khalifa is a mixed use skyscraper in Dubai, which was completed in 2009. The building was designed by the same Chicago firm which designed the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in that city, and uses the same engineering principle of bundled tubes at its core to support the building’s weight. The tubular design allowed for substantially less steel to be used in construction, with most of the building being reinforced concrete. Its spire alone, which is mostly decorative, would qualify it as the 11th tallest structure in Europe were it erected on the continent.

The building has an outdoor swimming pool located on the 76th floor, with another on the 43rd floor. A 300 room hotel is located within the building, as well as corporate offices and private apartments. For those of a hardy constitution, 2,909 steps connect the ground floor with the 160th. The observation deck is located on the 124th floor. The surrounding park, known as Burj Khalifa Park, is landscaped with desert plants which are kept hydrated using water collected by the building’s cooling system, which itself relies on the cooler air of the upper portion of the building to decrease the temperatures of the lower portion of the structure.

1. The Apollo Space Program

It remains one of the signature engineering achievements in the history of the human race. No other program has delivered human beings to an environment other than their home planet and returned them safely to earth. Americans not only walked on the surface of the moon, they drove on it, using a battery driven vehicle designed for the purpose, capable of carrying two astronauts and greatly increasing the area which the lunar explorers could cover. It was carried to the moon within the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) and used for the final three moon missions in the early 1970s. In 2003, the National Academy of Engineers called the program the “…greatest engineering team effort in American history.”

The Apollo program led to significant advances in the development of integrated circuitry, contributed to the growing cause of environmentalism, and over 20% of the world’s population watched on television when astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first human footprints on the lunar surface. NASA claimed spin-offs from the space program in the areas of freeze-dried foods, emergency reflective blankets, hand-held portable vacuum cleaners, and more than 2,000 other areas. LASIK surgery is a direct descendant of the technology developed to dock with vehicles in space, first performed as part of the Gemini program, in which astronauts learned the techniques required of Apollo.


Engineering HOF –

WIF Into History