Monday, March 21, 2005

TheGoodReverend's Tour of Tucson

Tucson is a small city and it lacks the glamour of San Francisco or even Philadelphia. But it does have this:

The Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arizona. At the corner of Speedway and Mountain, this building stands as a monument to feats of engineering for engineering's own sake. For starters, the front entrance is graced with a lopsided awning that seems to say, "Look at me, I'm lopsided but I'm still stable; what a feat of engineering!"

The best parts of the building, however, are the twin spring-loaded bridges between the third or fourth floors of the two department sides. A Tucson adventurer can venture out on them at night; they are accessible from an exterior staircase. Walk out to the middle of the bridge and jump up and down. Then stop. You'll notice that the bridge continues to spring up and down. This works best if you have a few people because heavier weight affects the mechanism more.

I don't know what this kind of bridge is called. Maybe you ME kids can clue me in. It's got two long beams coming down beneath the center of the span, and at the bottom of the beams cables run to the buildings. It looks like an upside down suspension bridge. Somehow the cables or the beams or a combination of both act as shock absorbers that allow the bridge to move up and down under the pressure of the load on it. For teenagers who want a trippy equilibrium experience, it's awesome.

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