Buildings want to float, and cars want to fly. These are just a couple of the counterintuitive engineering principles taken from the book, 101 Things I Learned in Engineering School (Grande Central Publishing) by John Kuprenas with Matthew Frederick.
We also learn that skyscrapers are built mostly to resist pressures from the side, not weight from the top. We discover that a triangle is more stable than a square â€“- thus many bridges and buildings are based on triangles.
Using the comment section below, let us know the unusual-but-obvious-once-you-think-about-it principles you learned in engineering school. We'd also like to know what you learned after engineering school that you wish you had known when you were a student.
Click the image below to start our slideshow on things learned in engineering school.
A skyscraper is a vertically cantilevered beam. The primary structural design consdieration is not resistance to vertical (gravity) loads, but resistance to lateral loads from wind and earthquakes. For this reason, tall structures function and are designed conceptually as large beams cantilevered from the ground. (Illustration source: Earthquake Buddy)
Don't forget to add the "Stop for pedestrians" zones in the middle of most blocks on college campuses to the inefficient stop conversation. I wonder how much greenhouse gasses are added to the atmosphere because of these feel good zones.
The whole problem is that if the politicians admit that it was a mistake, that they will be expected to correct the problem. So nobody in Michigan politics admits to ever making a mistake. That is probably a political thing, I suppose.
Nobody will acknowledge that the four way stops reduce fuel economy, increase pollution, and make the intersections less safe. So that problem does not go away either.
We have lots and lots of four way stops, and a few 5-way stops also. In addition we have the "Michigan Flip" arrangement for making left turns on almost all divided roadways, residential or main. And no oil production anyplace to be seen, although there are some old wells that are not working. So please don't blame the oil companies for municiple government stupidity. They are the same fools who claim that stop signs at every single corner prevents speeding.
The problem with drivers in Michigan is that if you can pay the $16 you get a license, if you are over 21 years old. If you fail the written test they tell you the right answers and then give you the license. It seems that driving is regarded as a right, not an earned privaledge. And so we have a whole bunch of people who have no clue as to how to merge and are unable to focus their attention in order to drive safely. In addition they simply don't understand anything about inertia or friction, and how that relates to stopping a vehicle.
In addition we have a good number of folks with the classic "17 second reaction time" symdrome, and they often make for some real excitement on our roadways. And those snow-bird-brains are one more reason why I would nevber ever visit Florida again.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.