Wednesday, August 26, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XVIII

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Is not this the fast that I have Chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. Then shalt though call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in." -- Isaiah 58:7-12

Indeed, Rupert went on in his 'last letter' to praise Elizabeth. He was careful to laud the accomplishments of Anna and Sandy, as he understated those of his youngest daughter. Elizabeth had, on her own, begun to study the possibility of geo-thermally enhanced agriculture in the tundra of the autonomous republics. Like America in the Nineteenth Century, a vast new world was opened to the world's struggling masses. She studied how Theodor Herzl had envisioned the rebirth of the nation of Israel. Herzl had considered locating the reborn state in South America as well as in the land of promise. His novel, Altneuland, or Old New Land, outlined his vision for a reborn Israel. Here would be a nation that enjoyed the fruits of capitalist markets and freedom, yet cared for weak in the best of socialist intentions. Arab and Jew would work side by side and Jerusalem would become a modern hub of commerce!

Previous to pursuing the vision of Zion Theodor Herzl had even contemplated assimilating the Jewish people into Germany through a mass conversion. His creative and troubled mind journeyed endless distances to find rest for his people. It was not until the Twentieth Century, The Balfour Declaration and the reestablishment of the nation in 1947 that the vision of a Jewish homeland became reality.

In the wake of Israel's establishment, her Arab neighbors rose up to attack her. Much of Israel's Arab population fled to neighboring states, hoping to follow the conquering Arab armies back in the wake of their sure victory! When that victory was not to come, they became permanent refugees... the neighboring Arab states would not assimilate them. They became the Palestinians. Elizabeth's new lands offered a new home for those in the world who desired one. Many Palestinians were happy to seek passage to the North where their children would have a sure future. Those who remained, however, became even more bitter.

Though the world often looked unfavorably on the reborn Israel, this small nation, the size of New Jersey, became the world's 'Garden State,' exporting food and flowers to Europe and beyond. Israeli researchers led the world in giving sight to the blind and new computing technology to the world. Elizabeth found much support for her greenhouse vision in the Israeli research community.

Bering Strait Bridge Complex at Wales. Enlarge [click to view full size]

Tundra Farms in 2060. Enlarge [click to view full size]

(to be continued) [click to read]

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XVII

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


1.Invention is rarely created in a vacuum. 2. Always read your colleague's/competitor's white papers. 3. The flashy guy who gets all the big grants just sometimes aint all that smart, and 4. Persistence, hard work and humility is always a great combination in any situation." -- M. K. Wharton

Our world of today revolves around things which at one time couldn’t be done because they were supposedly beyond the limits of human endeavor….don’t be afraid to dream.” -- Joseph Baermann Strauss

The building of the Bering Strait Bridge had involved the consideration of a dynamic design problem of epic proportions. Though investors thought Zimmerman's proposal a simple expansion of projects done elsewhere, it was in truth a project that involved new ventures into the unknown. Years before, someone had proposed a tunnel between Russia and Alaska. The fact that the sea floor itself was in motion made that an impractical solution. Add to that the strong ice-filled currents of the Strait and the vicious storms that sometimes swirled through and you had a lot of problems that had to be solved. Computer modeling always seemed to miss some subtle, but important part of the puzzle. O'Malley had given up pretty quickly on doing so, as Rupert had resorted to scaled down models of his bridge sections which he placed into the actual currents of the Strait. Detailed structural analysis on real models taught the designers far more than electronic simulation.

The design process had precedent in the United States space program in the 1960's. When President John F. Kennedy proposed putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth, he was using German ICBM technology and rockets that had about a 50% chance of actually surviving launch. American engineers had developed the new field of aerospace structural dynamics to refine the rockets. Their tools were machines that simulated the vibrations and stresses that actually occurred during launch. An engineer in Greenbelt, Maryland had actually created what he called the "Launch Phase Simulator." It was a giant centrifuge, which simulated the increased gravity forces of lift-off. There was a vibration machine in a vacuum chamber on the end of the centrifuge arm. Inside the vacuum chamber were lamps to simulate sun exposure and cryogenic tubing to simulate the cold.

The combined stresses that could be studied using this method allowed engineers to see what they were missing in analyzing isolated phenomena. American rocket technology moved forward to a more dependable launch vehicle. Rupert found some of the old documentation of this work and he, Martin and Elizabeth studied it to develop their own methodology.

Zimmerman had listened in horror to the broadcast when the space shuttle Challenger blew apart. A cold morning had caused an "o" ring in a solid fuel booster to compress, creating a leak where the heat of combustion caused the explosion of the fuel tank. Apparently the computer model had missed this. The old "bench-test" guys had been replaced by the "whiz kids" with computer analysis. One engineer of the old school had, in fact, tried to delay the launch. He suspected something like this could occur, but could only share his speculation. He was overruled and the fateful launch went on.

The shuttle Columbia was destroyed as her heat shield of fragile ceramic tiles had been unknowingly damaged during launch. Re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, the breach in her shield had caused the heat of reentry to destroy the ship and her crew. Space flight was never without risk, astronauts Grissom, Chaffee and White had perished in a fire that engulfed their Apollo I spacecraft. Apparently a spark ignited their oxygen-rich atmosphere inside the ship during a routine preflight systems check. Apollo XI almost didn't make it off the moon. One of the astronauts had broken an essential fuse going in or out of the craft. 'Buzz' Aldren had used a ball-point pen to facilitate a makeshift repair. Without that pen the astronauts would have been stranded on the moon!

The Diomedes as seen in satellite imagery.

Bridge building itself had a long history of danger. Washington Augustus Roebling, son of John Roebling who designed the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge, engineered two pneumatic caissons that allowed men to build the foundations of the two towers. In 1870 a fire broke out in one of the caissons and Roebling was able to extinguish it. He did suffer from the bends, or decompression sickness as a result of his time in the cassions, forcing him to supervise much of the work from his home overlooking the bridge. The towers and spans of such projects were dangerous as well. “Bridgemen” at the turn of the century were known for reckless daredevilry.

Zimmerman admired the work of Joseph Baermann Strauss, chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. [1.] Strauss' father was a Bavarian painter and his mother was a musician. He grew up in a home that looked out on the 1,057-foot-long Covington-Cincinnati bridge. The bridge was, at the time it opened, the longest suspension bridge in the world. Hailed as a visionary, poet, builder and dreamer, young Joseph injured himself in an attempt to play for the university football team. Legend has it that he took in the view of the great bridge from his bed as he recovered, inspiring his future career. Strauss’ undergraduate thesis, presented in 1892, actually proposed a bridge across the Bering Strait, connecting North America and Asia. [2.]

His magnum opus would be the Golden Gate Bridge, completed in 1937. Strauss was appalled that a project at the time typically lost one life for every million dollars spent according to the actuaries. Looking at a $40 million dollar project, he refused to lose the lives of forty men to do it. Strauss put into effect the most rigorous safety code ever enforced on a project. He required all workers to wear Edward W. Bullard’s hard hats, first created for coal miners. The bridge workers all received a modified version of the Bullard hat. Respirators, glare-free safety goggles and special hand and face cream to protect workers from the cruel winds were also required.

A safety net was suspended beneath the roadway during construction and is credited for saving nineteen lives. Strauss even built an on-site field hospital at Fort Point. The men were fed carefully formulated diets, believed to help fight dizziness. Hung-over workers received a specially formulated “sauerkraut cure.” Most important, Strauss strictly enforced his rules: “On the Golden Gate Bridge, we had the idea we could cheat death by providing every known safety device for workers,” he wrote in 1937 for The Saturday Evening Post. “To the annoyance of the daredevils who loved to stunt at the end of the cables, far out in space, we fired any man we caught stunting on the job.” In spite of such diligence, eleven lives were still lost. Most of the men died when a scaffolding collapsed and fell through the safety net.

Joseph Strauss' original design for the Golden Gate Bridge.

Though he did obtain a reputation for great safety engineering, Strauss failed in some important areas. His work prior to the Golden Gate Bridge was in building smaller projects and this time he may have taken on more than he could handle. His initial proposal was an awkward combination of truss and suspension bridge and the design was rejected. Undaunted, he hired Charles Alton Ellis to complete the design. Ellis drew out the graceful structure that was actually built. In Ellis, Strauss had his Martin O'Malley to round out his team; But there was a problem: Ellis was a serious engineer and Strauss grew impatient as the conscientious Ellis exhaustively checked his own calculations. Strauss had made Ellis Vice-president of the operation and had originally lauded the skills of his colleague, but there came a time when Strauss told Ellis to go on a long vacation. He then wrote Ellis a letter telling him not to come back. When the bridge opened in 1937 there was no attribution made to Ellis for three years of excellent work.

Strauss' show of ego might well have resulted in a tragedy similar to the 2007 collapse of the I35W Bridge over the Saint Anthony Falls of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During the evening rush hour, it suddenly collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The reason was an improperly specified gusset plate. The error was not found prior to construction. Ellis continued to check his calculations, working unpaid, and presented areas of concern to the Golden Gate Bridge design team. Needless to say; Zimmerman and the O'Malleys found this a sobering and important lesson. They came to treasure their collaboration and collective abilities all the more as they faced new challenges in their own work.

Elizabeth, Martin and Rupert simulated their own macabre set of 'occurrences' in an effort to ensure that the risks of their great bridge would be minimal. After they had constructed half-scale models of their pre-manufactured bridge sections and placed them in the strait they simulated ship collisions, terrorist explosions, even submarine cutting of the anchor cables. They built a shear-factor into the tube sidewalls to direct the energy of an intentional explosion outward, hopefully saving the structure itself. The trade-off was that a large collision, such as the one that occurred when Abdul jackknifed, also would break through the wall. They simulated the repair and replacement of damaged sections in winter currents. Their plan was to initially manufacture "extra" sections to replace any that became damaged beyond repair or destroyed. The "extra" sections would eventually become the twin span and then more sections would be fabricated on a "pay as you go" plan to become a third crossing over St. Lawrence Island.

Here Rupert looked at how the Bospherous had been bridged in Turkey. The initial span, built in the Twentieth Century, had required heavy security in the volatile Middle-East. Eventually a second "beltway" span sealed the reality that the Bospherous could always be crossed. Elizabeth noted that people who enjoyed the prosperity of commerce were less easily radicalized. She planned to spread the wealth that resulted from her father's great work.

When his initial design for the Golden Gate Bridge was rejected, Joseph Strauss hired engineer: Charles Alton Ellis to create the design that was actually constructed, shown here in this California Highways and Public Works Photograph from 1937.

Construction on the Alcan Highway. The road was built in 1942 and completed within a year as part of the war effort.

M56 near Yakutsk prior to being upgraded as part of the Bering Highway. 
Photo by Andrey Laskov.

The twin spans of the Bering Strait Bridge. The original span (closest) is the Charles Alton Ellis Memorial Bridge. The second span is the Joseph Baermann Strauss Memorial Bridge.

Preliminary Grading on Little Diomede.

The 'Launch Phase Simulator' at Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 
NASA Photo

(to be continued) [click to read]

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XVI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" -- C. S. Lewis

Now that small fortune became the initial capitalization for Zimmerman's great bridge. With investment pouring in and a bond offering being finalized, Rupert and Martin embarked on the infamous camping trip to Wales. A bush pilot carried them and their gear into Wales where they set out to hike to the great hill where their bridge would spring from. They insisted on going alone and struggled to carry out a copious quantity of Guiness, O'Malley's favorite beer. After toasting the venture over and over, Rupert suggested a swim in the strait... the first ever meeting of the "Prudhoe Bay Beach Club!" Drunk and fighting hypothermia, they proceeded to set their tent on fire, destroying all their supplies. They managed to assemble a shelter and dry themselves and their clothes by the fire.

Zimmerman and O'Malley engaged in a heated discussion of fire suppression systems for their bridge and engaged in a fairly beneficial analysis of the fire that had closed the English Channel Tunnel in the past Century. They stumbled into Wales a week later with a safety and security plan well developed and handed it to their designers.

In his last communication with his loved ones on Earth, Zimmerman wanted to set the record straight lest the "heroic survival" legend persist. If the truth be known, Rupert enjoyed the legend that had come to surround him, but he valued accuracy in history even more. He had also become keenly aware of the value of admitting his errors in judgement to his most trusted apprentices. The young and brilliant men and women who came to Wales to shadow him probably benefited most from learning how NOT to proceed in a given situation. Ironically, it had seemed hardest for Zimmerman to admit his weaknesses to Pat.

The unique pontoon design allowed for rapid fabrication in shipyards while providing a minimum exposure for workers to the harsh and variable conditions in the Bering Strait. They were floated into place by seagoing tugs and anchored by cables placed by robotic submersibles, allowing for a very short construction time. Zimmerman was appalled by the notion that worker deaths were inevitable on a project of this magnitude. Though the actuaries said it was impossible, the job was completed with zero fatalities. Zimmerman's Israeli engineer friends provided the latest in safety technology. 
Graphic by Bob Kirchman

Elizabeth Zimmerman O'Malley would lay out agricultural greenhouse communities across the tundra.
Graphic by Bob Kirchman

(to be continued) [click to read]

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." C. S. Lewis

Pat was a beautiful slender brunette, the love of Zimmerman's life. He met her while he was struggling to build his career and soon found himself spending hours in conversation with her. With only the intention of an afternoon hike on his mind (or at least that was his story), he took her to walk on Georgia's Stone Mountain. Zimmerman and his friends loved to hike up Stone Mountain and they avoided the luxury of the tram like the plague. Invoking some primitive machismo, they'd revel in the exertion. Rupert immediately bought tram tickets for himself and Pat. They would ride up and walk down, Rupert treasured Pat's company but struggled with the idea of marriage. Still, she was deliciously cute in her pink shorts outfit. They enjoyed a picnic on the rocky top of the mountain and began their descent.

Walking down the mountain they were caught in a sudden thunderstorm. Drenched to the skin, they were laughing and embracing one another. "I want you to be my wife!" Zimmerman proclaimed. Pat responded: "I want you to be my husband!" She thought for a moment... "Does this mean we're engaged?"

Indeed it did. The ring and formalities would follow, but Zimmerman would, after the incident on the bridge years later, say that an unseen hand gave him his bride and later met him on his own bridge that night. Indeed, Zimmerman had joyfully married Pat, but had drifted into the ways of his old boss... immersing himself in his work as his ventures struggled and failed. By the time he'd succeeded he had become a good but distant provider. Elizabeth was the child most like him and she filled an important void... as daughter and as his assistant. Pat seemed preoccupied for a while with those prophets of doom who write novels about the world blowing up and sell a lot of books. She wanted to prepare for apocalypse, Zimmerman wanted to build a better world.

Rupert and Pat both loved young people. They reveled in the love Elizabeth, their youngest daughter, had for Martin. Zimmerman refused to give up hope for them to live in a bright beautiful world like he'd grown up in. He often remembered how towards the end of the Nineteenth Century someone had suggested that the patent office be closed, saying: "Everything that is going to be invented has already been invented." Zimmerman laughed at the idea that that was ever seriously considered. Indeed invention seemed to have withered in the Twentieth Century as government investment propped up a succession of poorly designed prototypes of "green" technology. In the small nation of Israel, however, Zimmerman would find incredible innovation. He invested in the development of artificial sight technology being developed there to aid the blind and made a small fortune.

Photo by Bob Kirchman

(to be continued) [click to read]

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