Of Live Load and “Love Load”, Bridges, Bats, and Locks

Parisian bridge collapses under the weight of love

A $24.4 million dollar traffic fine, an 80,000 pound live load that takes off (literally) for 30 minutes every evening, and a structure that stands up well in the face of war, but collapses in the face of love…what do they all have in common?   They all relate to bridges, and the unanticipated loads that they may have to endure.

We know that the job of the engineer is not only to design a structure that safely withstands its anticipated loads, but likewise to accurately anticipate those loads.  A good design may go for naught if it doesn’t suitably consider the possibility of every load that it may eventually experience. Continue reading

I’m a Truss Me! Wizard, There has to be a Twist…

Tilt! #@$&%*  Another truss bites the dust…

Oh hello out there!   I guess I haven’t been around much lately here at the blog; I’ve been a little…busy.  I’ve been spending a lot of time recently…honing my engineering skills…solving difficult challenges…trying just a little harder to come up with the optimal design…I know I need to take some time off to get this blog article written, but it seems there’s always one more tweak that might improve the situation…I’ve got something important that I’m almost done with.

By the way, have you ever tried the Truss Me! app? Continue reading

From Damascus Swords to A992 – the Evolution of Steel

Damascus Steel – Dominating the Medieval World

“Damascus steel” whispered the merchant, pulling the sword out from under a pile of silks to show it to me.  “The strongest, sharpest, and most durable steel in the world.  All of you want it, only the most deserving can have it.”

I, the itinerant adventure arriving from the west, seeking my fortune here in the Middle East, had ventured into this bazaar in search of treasures not available back home.  Like so many visitors before me who had crisscrossed this part of the world – the Crusaders, the Mamelukes, the Mongols, the Turks, the British – I was taken by both the beauty of the object, plus the power that such a weapon could bring. Continue reading

An Up-and-Down Career: Roller Coaster Engineer

The Original Structural Analysis in the Cloud?

Last week I was chatting to my daughter about my blog.

“Your articles are OK,” she said.  “But why don’t you write something that would appeal to someone my age, a 20-something?”

“Like what?” I asked.  “What aspect of structural engineering might interest a 20-something?”

“How about Roller Coaster Tycoon?” she suggested. Continue reading

Houston’s Structural Skyline: From Steel and Glass to Beer Cans

AC-1Houston’s Structural Extremes

This weekend, Saturday April 11, Houston’s Annual Art Car Parade will be held.  It is one of the highlights of the local entertainment season, a perfect meld of engineering/mechanical aptitude and artsy wackiness: something purely Houstonian.

The idea of the Art Car Parade is that anyone with an old junk car (or anything else on wheels) spends a year or more decorating it in a unique artistic style that speaks to them alone: the car may end up covered with dancing lobsters, or disguised as a dragon, peacock, or even as Siamese twin VW bugs.  Then one Saturday a year, 250 or so art cars parade down one of Houston’s main drags, like some psychedelic Easter parade strutting for the appreciative crowds.  If you can’t make the Art Car Parade in person, here is the next best thing:  http://www.thehoustonartcarparade.com.    
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This Joist is Jumpin’: the Structural Dynamics of Dance

Don’t try this until a Professional Engineer has checked things out

I’ve been out dancing several times in the past month or so – New Year’s Eve was spent with a Latin band which played salsa, bachata, and merengue.  A few weeks later my wife and I went to a ballroom gala, getting an opportunity to trot out our fox trot, rumba, cha-cha, and swing.  And every few Fridays we manage to squeeze in an hour or so of our favorite, Argentine tango. Continue reading

Engineering, on the Way to San Jose

Dominic Kinnear, fellow traveler on the road west

“Will you live in the Bay Area January through March 2015, if we fund you?” – Last Tuesday night I came to the moment of truth on the application that I was filling out, in my attempt to get CloudCalc selected as a member of the Winter 2015 class of YCombinator, the world’s preeminent technology accelerator — the birth place of such luminaries as Dropbox, Reddit, and Airbnb.  Now they were asking the clincher – if selected, did I promise to relocate for 3 months from Houston to Silicon Valley? Continue reading

NYC’s Highline – Where “That” Type of Engineer Meets “This” Type of Engineer

New York City’s High Line, then and now

“Whooooooooo whooooo!”  Admit it, there’s some train love in all of us.  I first realized my love of trains when I was a little kid, in the years following the great interstate highway build out, when it was pretty well decided that the long haul trucker had made the train obsolete.  Whenever my family went for a drive it seemed like we always passed train graveyards.  To me, it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen – what were all the different types of trains and street cars used for, where had they traveled, what would it be like to own one to play in?
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Engineering or Art: Why not Both?

art-3Dubai Skyline – Engineering or Art?

“Filling a space in a beautiful way. That’s what art means to me.” – Georgia O’Keeffe


This past weekend my wife and I were in Providence, visiting our daughter for the purpose of meeting her new boyfriend.  Walking through our hotel I noticed an interesting diptych among the artwork decorating the hallway – two pieces celebrating the nearby Exchange Bridge.  One piece, an engineering drawing used in the construction, had many characteristics – clean lines, geometric patterns, symmetry, and interesting ornamentation – usually associated with many purely artistic works.  The other piece was a photo capturing the beauty of the resulting tangle of structural steel that was the bridge itself.  The photographer, coming upon this utilitarian object, recognized that it had “filled a space in a beautiful way” – and thus was art, to Georgia O’Keeffe, to the photographer, as well as to many others who walk the streets of the city (or the halls of that hotel) every day. Continue reading

One Engineer Remembers the World Trade Center



Yesterday marked the 13th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, an attack that destroyed both towers, killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, decimated New York City’s first responders, and in many ways changed the world forever.  The date September 11 will always conjure up, for those who lived through it, horrible memories — of the sights, the fears, the concerns for loved ones, and above all the concern and sorrow felt for those nearly 3,000 who we did not even know.

This blog article is an inadequate place to try to honor the memory of those who lost their lives on that day, so I will not even try.  Rather I would like to celebrate the too brief existence of two buildings – two buildings which hold a significant place in my life.

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