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The Engineering Paradigm (WAS Re: Open Web/LH Steel Joist Splices)

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Christopher Wright wrote:
> The problem is investigated thoroughly and other masters with
> other methodology take over and the cycle renews.

The problem is that this isn't how "innovation" is done anymore.

For the most part, we're done with the days when "pushing the envelope" was done
by an lone, intrepid and heroic figure, standing out on the bleeding edge while
the world looked on in hope.

Now, it's much, much more prosaic. Knowledge is advanced by stuffy professors of
engineering and their hordes of "graduate student slaves" (as one of my
professors used to put it), toiling ceaselessly in the basement laboratories of
larger engineering schools. Then the information is published, sifted,
criticized, and others use what has been done to further their own research.
"Failures" are found by deliberately testing something TO failure, and dutifully
recording the fact. Curves are fit to itinerant data, and equations are crafted
to fit the curves.

Factors of safety are applied, as well as other factors calculated to drive "old
farts" (as Roger quaintly put it) crazy.

True, accidents still happen, and sometimes the knowledge envelope IS extended
by tragic failure (e.g. The explosion of the Challenger). But in today's world,
HUGE works on a scale like Roebling's, are done on a daily basis, and "the
envelope" is pushed so often that the actual "mean-time-to-failure" numbers are
stunningly large.

So, in summary, I'd say that the work you cite might serve very well to tell us
how things used to be done, but not as a harbinger of the future. There really
is a very different paradigm at work now.

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