Friday Fun: Recreation of Infamous Bridge Collapse Exonerates Engineers

Dec 23 2011 Published by under friday fun

Thanks be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for the Cronk of Higher Ed. That is all.

Recreation of Infamous Bridge Collapse Exonerates Engineers

Researchers at the U.S. Marine Academy's civil engineering labs have determined that the designers of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge were not responsible for that structure's spectacular 1940 collapse.

"It's those videos," commented Dr. Ramsey Archer, head of the research team. "Millions of people have seen footage of the bridge's gyrating plunge over and over again, ad nauseam. Very cool to watch, but it's lousy science."

Dr. Ramsey's idea was to have cadets, as the Marine Academy's students are known, build a 1/200th scale replica of the bridge and reproduce the winds that destroyed it.


The research team did not offer any firm theories as to what caused the original bridge's demise.

"Maybe terrorism," said Capt. Hale Vessel, associate chair of the Marine Academy's civil engineering department. "Or maybe the paint they used corroded the cables. Who the heck knows? Anyway, at least nobody died. Though it is a shame about that little dog."

Students participating in the study received credit for a senior practicum in structural mechanics, a course colloquially known as "Hoist and Duck."

"It was a great opportunity," commented one of the students. "And almost as much fun as blowing things up."

3 responses so far

  • Lou Jost says:

    What a bizarre conclusion. Every physics student has seen that famous video, and it is pretty clear that no bridge should move that way. Even if it hadn't collapsed, the video demonstrates that the bridge was improperly designed.

    Also, just because the mock-up didn't collapse in the wind tunnel doesn't mean anything, given the difficulties of making accurate 1/200 scale girders exactly analogous to the real ones (including 1/200 scale rivets or welds).

    Is the "terrorism" explanation a joke? Or is our military that far removed from reality? Terrorists back then sent a strong wind to do their dirty work????

  • Amenhotepstein says:


    I take it you are not familiar with "The Cronk" and the work it does. Go forth and peruse their website, and then you will understand.

    No need to thank me. The sound of your facepalm when you finally get it will be its own reward!

  • Lou Jost says:

    Thanks!!! I had no idea. I don't live in the US anymore and wasn't familiar with the Cronk.

    The sad thing is that nowadays the real news that comes out of the US is often indistinguishable from satire.

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