This is definitely a great way to illustrate concepts of stress and strain! I'll have to keep this technique in mind when trying to explain mechanical problems. By the way, here is a picture (from Wikipedia):
What I really like about the human model described here is that the humans could feel the tensile and compressive forces, rather than just imagine them. Seems like it would be a great exercise for engineering students.
The story of that demonstration of the concept of the bridge is really interesting. Before the days of electronics to be able to get such a concept across was a difficult proposition. The solution is very good and filled the bill well.
I have been on that bridge, by the way. It is a great view.
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