Every once in a while, you just need to see a good bridge demolition. Here's a short and sweet one. I like how the sound of the explosion comes just a split second after the visual -- sound traveling slower than light, as you know. The poor structure being destroyed is the Fort Steuben Bridge in Ohio, which was declared structurally unsound. It took 153 pounds of explosives to reduce this bridge to a pile of rubble. Watch and enjoy.
Who knew that dish soap was the secret ingredient to bridge building?
Engineers from around the United States, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and its partners all gathered on Tuesday to watch something truly remarkable. Two bridges on Interstate 15 near Mesquite were replaced in a matter of hours using hydraulic jacks, metal beams and cleaner of greasy casserole dishes everywhere: Dawn dish soap.
Traditional bridge construction can take anywhere from eight months to a year, but this new accelerated method for bridge replacement reduces construction time exponentially. In fact, construction crews said they only had to detour traffic for 56 hours.
The overpass slabs were built on metal frames right next to the bridges being retrofitted. Hydraulic jacks and cranes were used to lift and slide the slabs onto Teflon rails lubricated with dish soap. Each slab slid about five feet at a time until secured into place.
But don't work yourself into a lather over the technical details of this method, because as you can imagine, there's no real engineering guidelines for sliding a bridge into place with dish soap.
Within the next 30 years, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 or higher is expected to hit San Francisco. That's why the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco and Oakland, is undergoing major seismic renovations.
During 1989's Loma Prieta Earthquake, which registered 6.9 on the Richter scale, a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, killing a motorist. Since then, major studies were conducted to determine if California's largest bridges were seismically safe.
Results of those studies showed the Bay Bridge -- which is bisected by Yerba Buena Island -- needed major improvements. A one-mile stretch on the west span needed three on- and off-ramps replaced, while the entire east span needed to be completely replaced.
Construction began in 2006 on a 2.2. mile stretch. Its main architectural feature will be a single-tower Self-Anchored Suspension span (SAS). When completed in late 2013, its 1,263-foot main span length will make it the longest, single-tower, self-anchored suspension bridge in the world.
Enhancing the bridge's form and function is the 525-foot single tower that is capable of withstanding a major earthquake. The steel tower is actually composed of four separate towers that are connected by shear link beams designed to move separately and act as shock absorbers in the event of a quake.
Also unique to new SAS is that one continuous main cable will help support the deck, as opposed to traditional suspension bridges that have two separate main cables.
This new design will include a nearly one-mile-long main cable anchored on the Oakland side of the bridge. It will then be carried over the single tower and, as it extends down, the cable will loop around two decks and their foundations on Yerba Buena Island, and back to the original anchor.
A fire starts in a building and as people evacuate, the fire department is called in. It's rush hour, so the roads are jammed. In response, the traffic signals at every intersection are adjusted to allow emergency vehicles to pass unimpeded. Meanwhile, in the building itself, the fire alarm system automatically turns on lights to guide people to safety. Water flow is adjusted in the area to make sure that the firefighters have enough.
This is the scenario envisioned by Living PlanIT, a European technology company that wants to build smarter cities using an operating system, called Urban OS, that works similar to operating systems in ordinary computers. The key is coordinating a network of sensors that would feed the information into the operating. By monitoring waste, water use, traffic flows and even the temperatures of individual rooms, the entire city could be run at peak efficiency. That means saving energy, water and even reducing the waste that goes into landfills (Living PlanIT says it has a system for extracting useful compounds from garbage). It also means being able to respond to emergencies more quickly than now.
The Urban OS will run PlaceApps, the equivalent of apps on a smart phone. These apps, however, would control vital systems in buildings. The OS would also be open to independent developers, and the whole system could even connect to individual smart phones to monitor household appliances, for example.
The company is building a demonstration project in Paredes, Portugal, called PlanIT Valley, though it will be a few years before it is fully up and running.
There are a few issues that will need to be addressed. Privacy is one, as well as the possibility of hacking. Then there’s the relative openness of the system. Living PlanIT has several technology partners but it isn’t clear how open the standards used will be; if the UrbanOS is designed in a way similar to Apple’s OS products, then it means a given city would be locked into a single set of vendors. A more open system would solve that, but then one would have to decide how open -- and how robust -- they should be. That said, with a single platform running a whole city any problems could be addressed more easily.
Hopping on a bicycle saddle and peddling through the heart of the city is not for the faint of heart. Besides being safeguarded by minimal protection amidst aggressive traffic, their slower pace and low visibility often subject bikers to unfathomable road rage and projectiles hurled from angry motorists.
I've been grazed by enough tossed cups, bottle caps, and side-view mirrors to know that biker visibility is paramount to a more peaceful and safe coexistence between cyclists and motorists.
Helping bridge this gap is BLAZE, a device invented by Emily Brooke, a final-year Product Design student at the University of Brighton. Her device alerts drivers to the presence of a bikers by projecting a laser image onto the road in front of the bicycle.
"Eighty percent of cycle accidents occur when bicycles travel straight ahead and a vehicle maneuvers into them," said Emily Brooke, in a university news release. "The most common contributory factor is 'failed to look properly' on the part of a vehicle driver. The evidence shows the bike simply is not seen on city streets."
To make bikers more visible, the handlebar-mounted device projects a bright green, diamond-shaped shared lane symbol on the pavement, several feet in front of the cyclist. The symbol, even visible in daylight, can be made to flash on and off.
The idea is that motorists will notice the green image on the road and take precaution, even if they don't see the cyclist in their blind spot.
Ask yourself, is it good that a company headquarters is roughly the size of the Pentagon? Or should that be a red flag? I jest. Somewhat. But that's basically the size of Apple's new building, proposed by CEO Steve Jobs, although a bit of a smaller footprint overall. Check out the graphic below from the Mercury News. In a presentation before the Cupertino City Council on June 7 (see here), Jobs said, "Apple's growing like a weed."
He said they have almost 12,000 people in the area and were renting buildings at an ever greater radius from their campus. They have a plan that allows them to stay in Cupertino and "continue to pay taxes." Apple bought some land formerly owned by Hewlett Packard, and have designed an unsual building.
"It's a little like a spaceship landed," Jobs told the council. Here's what the building will have:
Essentially, the drafts of the future craft look much like an airplane, complete with four stubby wings (two on each side), a tail fin and two propellers that allow it to fly inches from the ground.
Because it handles like a plane, incorporating pitch, roll and yaw, besides the throttle, reluctant future passengers will be reassured that the research team, led by professor Yusuke Sugahara, has built a prototype that stabilizes all three axes.
For more stability, and to kept it from careening out of control, the Aero-train travels in a U-shaped concrete channel.
So far, the team's small, six-winged prototype successfully skimmed along a runway. Researchers hope to use data gleaned from the robotic prototype to build a manned experimental prototype that can travel 125 miles per hour.
China's Shanghai Maglev Train already zips around the country without relying on rails, instead using high-powered electromagnets to levitate the train as it zooms across the track at 268 miles per hour.
Although this rail-less technology cuts down on the friction that leads to lost energy, MagLev trains still create wind drag between the track and the bottom of the train, making them less efficient and more costly.
The Aero-train's concept actually embraces this wind drag, using the ground-effect principle's fast-moving air beneath the train to propel it down the track.
Tonight, President Obama will report on the condition of the Nation, and also outline his legislative agenda and priorities. Everyone and their uncle is wondering what the President will say in the State of the Union Address. It's not too much of a mystery. In a four-minute preview video published on the Organizing for America website, Obama said, "My principle focus ... is going to be making sure we are competitive, that we are growing and creating jobs -- not just now but well into the future."
He asks the question that anyone watching the video would ask: How? "How are we going to make sure that we have to most innovative, dynamic economy in the world?"
The answer, he says, is "...we're going to have to out-innovate and out-build and out-compete and out-educate other countries."
I like the way that sounds, but what does it mean to you?
To me, out-innovate means we need to go back to our turn of the 20th-Century roots when Americans were cranking out world-changing inventions like electrification, the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, computers and the Internet. Those inventions improved the lives of millions of people and brought about jobs. We need new ideas that will do the same and that takes investment.
I don't know what "out-build" means. Build what? Infrastructure? Cars? Buildings? Lots of things that were built here are now manufactured elsewhere for much less money. So what can we build here that would make us "out-compete?"
With years of discussions and billions of federal dollars behind it, a high-speed rail project in California is chugging forward. Officials at the state's High-Speed Rail Authority recently voted unanimously to approve a 54-mile track in the Central Valley. And that's just to start.
In 2008, Californians voted in favor of an 800-mile high-speed rail system. The plan is to take passengers from San Diego and Los Angeles all the way to San Francisco and Sacramento at speeds up to 220 miles per hour. Most of the technical details have yet to be determined, although the world's most well-known trainmakers, including China's CSR Corporation, are expected to compete for the project.
The state only has until September 2011 to finish environmental reviews for the project, so the High-Speed Rail Authority has to move quickly.
I'm not familiar with Borden and Corcoran, the two small towns at the ends of the new route that was just approved, although Fresno does fall between them. GOOD's Andrew Price wondered why the rail didn't concentrate on serving a more populated area first. The Authority officials apparently felt, since the federal funding has to be spent by 2012, that this rural route was more doable.
According to the Associated Press, the new Central Valley route will connect to an Amtrak freight rail line, and the construction is expected to create more than 80,000 jobs. Worst comes to worst and the whole rail project falls through, that route might still serve a purpose, writes John Cox in the Bakersfield Californian. Amtrak could potentially use the new tracks and slash travel time between Sacramento and the Bay Area by 22 to 28 minutes.
Having spent several years in Boston during the Big Dig, I'm not surprised to find that the high-speed rail project in California is extremely controversial. Billions of dollars are on the line. The scale is massive. Lives will change, and so will the landscape.
The traveler in me imagines how amazing it would be to ride so fast between L.A. and San Francisco. The realist in me knows that getting to that level of transportation won't be a breeze.
A giant Green Noise Wall is coming to I-70, east of Columbus, Ohio. The concrete barrier alternative will be constructed from bags of dirt and seeds, making it a second major vegetation highway wall attempt in the U.S. Officials are hoping this one fares infinitely better than an earlier one in Wisconsin, which ended badly.
Concrete sound barriers have been around for a while, usually erected to protect residents nearby from the roar of vehicles passing on the highway. The problem is twofold: concrete is an enormous source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and existing barriers have varying levels of sound-blocking effectiveness. Sure, some are made from bricks and even wood, but those are often not substantial enough. And, I'll just say it, these walls are ugly. So when the Ohio Department of Transportation began cutting down trees along I-70 for a new concrete sound barrier, locals pushed for something more aesthetically and environmentally pleasing.
Back in 1994, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation put up a 520-foot wall consisting of a plastic frame packed with soil and plants, according to Karen Farkas at the Plain Dealer. It was a disaster. She cites a report that says nearly 5,000 of the plants died and about half actually fell out of the structure, along with dried soil. Weeds took over and then part of the frame came down. The $396,000 structure was a complete bust.
In Ohio, the plans are radically different. The Canada-based civil engineering products company Deltalok came up with an original design for a wall that the Ohio DOT will be testing over the course of two years. Deltalok specializes in patented anti-erosion bags made from permeable fabric. The DOT has opened up the design to outside researchers and is currently seeking proposals (Download PDF)
for a test wall that incorporates Deltalok's bags.
The experimental phase will allow the DOT to look at a variety of factors, including how much water and maintenance a growing wall of vegetation might need. A research team will try out bags containing several different grass varieties that are stapled, tied, and sewn together. A rep from the Ohio Department of Transportation told Farkas that the
bags will work like a Chia Pet: just add water and watch it grow.
The initial test wall will
be 12 feet high while the ultimate plan is to put a 500-foot vegetation
wall on a westbound section of I-70 east of Columbus. Evaluations will determine whether the test wall can actually compete with concrete.
I'm all for less concrete use, as long as the alternative is safe and sustainable. Come to think of it, maybe in another 10 years we won't even need hardcore sound barriers along the highway. Electric vehicles are awfully quiet.