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Collision detection

Recently, the Saint George Island bridge in Florida was decommissioned and slated for destruction. That gave bridge engineers an interesting idea: Why not get a barge and smash it into the bridge a bunch of times, to see if the bridge survives? After all, intentionally causing collisions is precisely how the auto industry checks to make sure cars are safe; building-materials and airplanes and almost everything else is similarly stress-tested. But apparently the engineers did some research and found that nobody had ever tested a bridge for barge-collision endurance. As a story in Nature noted:

“You cannot run a barge into a bridge intentionally if the bridge is in service,” says Gary Consolazio of the University of Florida, lead engineer on the project. “There are just massive safety issues involved.”

So for the last month, they’ve been repeatedly slamming a 635-ton barge into the bridge. It’s still standing.

(Thanks to John Fleck for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson