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Petroski on Engineering: Everyone Loves Good Design

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Ann R. Thryft   9/13/2012 2:45:49 PM
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I think Mydesign has an excellent point: ancient engineers built amazing, beautiful structures, many of which have lasted hundreds or thousands of years, without any of today's sophisticated design tools. In fact, many prehistorians are still arguing about just how some of the oldest ones got designed and built, meaning what tools the engineers actually had in the way of mathematics and physical tools such as a string and chalk for laying out some of the more sophisticated megalithic monuments.

William K.
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Good design :Bridges
William K.   9/13/2012 8:17:04 PM
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I just visited the arch bridge over the New River Gorge in West Virginia, where We went across the bridge on the catwalk below the deck. That is a very interesting tour. It is difficult to grasp the magnitude of the structure until you see it that close up. All of that steel loaded in compression is an awsome thing indeed.

The bridges with structual elements in tesion are also amazing, but it is clear that they require a great deal more attention and maintenance to remain safe, since tensile failure modes are usually much faster than compressive failure modes, at least that is my understanding. It would be quite educational to have an explanation of how corrosive failure of the suspension elements is prevented.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good design :Bridges
Ann R. Thryft   9/14/2012 1:09:29 PM
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I grew up not far from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, with a 4,200-foot suspension span built in 1937. Regular painting is done to prevent corrosion, and those paint jobs are the main form of maintenance, according to this site:
http://goldengatebridge.org/research/facts.php

bobjengr
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
bobjengr   9/15/2012 2:55:56 PM
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  Ann, I agree completely.  In 2009 my wife and I traveled to Madrid to celebrate our 40th anniversary.    While there, we took a side trip to visit Toledo, an ancient city with many extrodanary structures, one being an aqueduct running close to three miles in length.  The workmanship was stunning and how the engineers accomplished the uniform downward slope with the tools they had at their disposal amazes me.  The stones were all laid by hand, each one carefully placed. Thousands upon thousands of carefully cut and placed stones.    I would love to climb into Mr. Peabody's way-back machine just to see how some of these ancient monuments were constructed.  It would certainly be a real treat.

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Good design :Bridges
Scott Orlosky   9/16/2012 2:46:34 PM
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I have add in my two cent to this architectural love-fest on bridges.  There is something magical about the way they "work" without actually "doing" anything.  Sort of like the human equivalent of a spider's web - constantly balancing forces through a series of aesthetic arcs and supports.  All in plain view. Thanks for highlighting these marvels of engineering.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Ann R. Thryft   9/17/2012 12:14:56 PM
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Bob, those aqueducts that have lasted 2000-plus years are pretty amazing, aren't they? I've seen lots of good illustrations that show how they work, but none about the exact building methods used. Does anyone else know any?

Mydesign
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Mydesign   9/17/2012 11:35:51 PM
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Ann, our ancient civil engineers and draftsman had done excellent works in designing and building bridges and roads without any analytical and design software/tools. They had used their brain and skills to complete the task, without depending any man made tools. In my country we had a more than a dozen of bridges built by the great British engineers in 19th century. Still most of them are in good condition and public is widely using it and some other are protecting as heritage monuments.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Ann R. Thryft   9/18/2012 12:12:02 PM
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Mydesign, if I remember correctly, you're in India, right? That country has some incredibly well-built, very ancient public structures and multi-story houses in Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa I've read about (and seen reconstructions of), from the Indus Valley civilization of a few thousand years ago. I don't know if they are still standing, fully or partially, but from the archaeological reconstructions I've seen they were both beautiful and well-engineered.

warren@fourward.com
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Beautiful Designs
warren@fourward.com   9/20/2012 4:30:45 PM
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I learned early on that looks are important!  Packaging can make the difference between success and failure.  Look at the auto industry.  Ugly only sells if it's REALLY ugly, otherwise, it's an Edsel.

I looked at the disassembly of the iPad and marvelled at how it was so carefully and artistically put together.  It is a work of art and Apple has overflowed its bank accounts.

I am not artistic, but I know how to hire the artistic types and work with them to put things together right.  It is worth the money!

Mydesign
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Re: Building and Bridge Designs
Mydesign   9/21/2012 12:42:12 AM
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Ann, you are right. Whatever the things possible are preserved and keeping as monuments by the archeological department. Apart from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, all the buildings with more than 100 years old are preserving by government and archeological departments, irrespective of it's a private or public building.

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