Thursday, April 5, 2018

How to Build an Impossible Bridge

With the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in late 1860's, the lack of a bridge across the Mississippi had become a major problem for the railroads.
Engineers pointed out that materials commonly used in bridge building could not support the wide span necessary to bridge the wide Mississippi river. Flooding would add stress to the breaking point. An all steel bridge could take the many stresses, but such a bridge was too expensive to build!
Andrew Carnegie pioneered a way to produce steel more cheaply for the bridge and formed the Keystone Bridge Co. to raise money to build the bridge.

The bridge was built at St. Louis, MO and is named for its designer and builder, James B. Eads. When completed in 1874, the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world, with an overall length of 6,442 feet. The ribbed steel arch spans were considered daring, as was the use of steel as a primary structural material. This was the first such use of true steel in a major bridge.The cost of building the bridge was nearly $10 million ($210 million with inflation). Railway transport of goods then began to outstrip goods moved on waterways.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Rocky II

The majestic Rockies are the second mountain range to rise in the same location. The Flatirons above Boulder, CO are a remnant of an earlier mountain range the Ancestral Rocky Mountains that rose 300 million years ago and wore away into sand and gravel before the current Rocky Mountains rose a mere 40 million years ago.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Housing Around

Bet you don't know that housing styles have an amazing story to tell.

California split houses were first built to house movie studio artisans who worked in the ground level room sewing costumes etc.and lived upstairs.

Shotgun houses are based on a way of building that originated in Africa to channel breezes through the house.

The bungalow is derived from a way of building with covered porches to cool air before it enters the house that came from India. The word is an Indian import also.

Next time you see these houses, remember their exotic origins.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Top This

The Great Pyramid would remain the tallest building on Earth for over 3,800 years. No man-made object topped its height until Eiffel built his tower for the 1889 Paris World's Fair. The vast building was completed in only 20 years using the square, copper chisels, and human ingenuity.

A Light Bulb Idea

In the early days of the light bulb, no one knew what caused the filament to glow or change color at different temperatures. The attempt by would be manufacturers of light bulbs to better understand the manufacturing process would lead to a scientific revolution that gave rise to quantum physics.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Red Plate Special

Where did the uranium used in the Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki atom bombs come from? It is a story that involves red dinner plates, secret deals between governments, and cutting edge science. In September 1942, officials, participating in the United States` Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb, visited the New York office of a Belgian firm that sold uranium ore, mined in Congo, for  use in paints and ceramic glazes. Fiestaware from the 30's and early 40's used uranium in their red-orange glazed dishes.The U.S. formed a secret purchase agreement with the firm and the Belgium government to buy uranium. By 1944,  the United States had purchased about 30,000 tons of uranium ore for close to 100 million dollars. 1,200 tonnes of uranium ore was stockpiled in a warehouse on Staten Island, New York. The rest was shipped to the U.S. via ship from a stockpile at the Sinkolobwe Mine in the Belgian Congo. At least one ship was sunk by the Germans. Once in the U.S. the uranium ore was shipped by rail for ore processing at secret facilities using cutting edge science, in remote locations like Oak Ridge, TN and Hanford, WA. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Art of Invention

Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the inventor of Morse Code, was a successful painter. One of his best know paintings is of Marquis de Lafayette. It hangs in the Crystal Bridges Art Museum, in .Arkansas.