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RE: Weak Rivets of Titanic, Weak Steel Bearing Walls of WTC, Weak Levees of New Orleans- Weak Gussets of I-35W Bridge= 6000 deaths

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Dr. Astaneh,

Ummm, I and all of the engineers that I work with are extremely
sensitive to the potential loss of life.  In fact, that is the
motivating factor in all our work.  It is perturbing to read your
over-generalization of engineers as seemingly soulless, egotistical and
unconcerned with the inhabitants of our buildings and structures.  You
make this charge of us all at first, but then retreat and say that is
only some of us.  Which is it?  If it is the latter, do not start out a
diatribe with broad-brush strokes impugning my and my co-workers'
professionalism and integrity.  

Now, this does not mean that I don't agree with some of your sentiments,
particularly your last paragraph.  Of course it is up to us to police
our own in order to uphold our collective reputation and the trust of
the public.  I would think that goes without saying, but I'm sure people
do lose sight of that.  

Doug Mayer, SE
Structural Engineer


-----Original Message-----
From: Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl [mailto:astaneh(--nospam--at)ce.berkeley.edu] 
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 3:41 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Weak Rivets of Titanic, Weak Steel Bearing Walls of WTC, Weak
Levees of New Orleans- Weak Gussets of I-35W Bridge= 6000 deaths 

To: Structural Engineers Association International Members
From: Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl
Date: April 15, 2008
Subject: Weak Rivets of  Titanic, Weak Steel Bearing Walls of WTC, Weak 
Levees of New Orleans- Weak Gussets of I-35W Bridge= 6000 deaths

Dear SEAINT friends:

Yesterday's New York Times reported that the original documents from the

time of construction of the Titanic shows that the engineers used 
sub-standard iron rivets in the construction since sound steel rivets 
were hard to get 
(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/15/science/15titanic.html?_r=1&ref=today
spaper&oref=slogin)    
Then I  found the following e-mail in my inbox from a dear friend who is

a scientist and faculty member in Division of Epidemiology of a 
prestigious university in Midwest:
_________________
Mike wwxxyy wrote (referring to NY Times story on Titanic Rivets being 
weak):
> Hassan,
> Once again, builders were cutting corners for short-term gain at the 
> expense of safety.  This kind of short-sightedness is one of the great

> problems of humanity and I don't see an easy solution.  Failure to act

> on the threat of global warming is another example of this kind of 
> problem. A key aspect to this is that the people who suffer most when 
> the short-sighted plan unravels are not the people who did the 
> planning.  I don't think the shipbuilders were on the Titanic when it 
> sank, nor were the architects in the WTC when it collapsed, and 
> if/when global warming becomes massively destructive, we'll all be 
> gone by then.  We at least need to stop pretending that we can trust 
> builders and designers and we should have a second competing team 
> critique their work.  That could help, but then the politicians who 
> choose the builder also want to save money and are thereby doubly 
> motivated to argue against paying for such a critique.  --Mike
-----------------------------
In my working on several very public projects, starting with the San 
Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge in 1989 on to my present I-35W and Mac 
Arthur projects, I have heard over and over the frustration and horror 
of many non-engineers upon coming across the lack of respect for human 
life and public safety on the part of some engineers and the presence of

what I have termed as "moral corruption" on the part of again some 
engineers who protect the faulty performance of their fellow engineers 
at the expense of public safety. I may have said this before, but, since

it is so dear to me I will repeat again.  A dear friend of mine in the 
business school here with whom I work at the Center for Catastrophic 
Risk Management at UC Berkeley, after the the Katrina disaster told me 
that "you engineers think that the planet earth is un-inhabited!" . 
Initially I kind of reacted trying to defend ourselves, but, then after 
looking back to my exposure to and involvement in investigating 
disasters for about 40 years now, and specially resent performance of 
engineers in the case of design of new East Spans of the Bay Bridge by 
Caltrans and private sector consultants and contractors, Investigation 
of the collapse of the Murrah Building, WTC towers and New Orleans 
Levees by the ASCE Building Performance Assessment Teams, the collapse 
and reconstruction of the Mac Arthur Maze by Caltarns and private sector

contractors and consultants 
(http://www.alumni.berkeley.edu/California/web/20071116_Astaneh.pdf)  
and now the case of I-35W tragic collapse and its investigation by NTSB 
and private sector consultants, I have concluded that she is absolutely 
right and engineers, at least most, think that planet earth is 
un-inhabited!.  If you do not agree with me let us see how many times 
when designing a structure, a member  or a connection, it has crossed 
your mind what happens if this structural element that I am designing 
fails and how many people will get killed or injured?    You may have 
taught of losing your job, losing your license, losing your reputation, 
but very few of us think of consequences of our  design in term of 
immediate and direct loss of lives of loved ones of someone else.

You know,  the downward arrow that you put on that beam and write next 
to it say "LL=45 kips" actually means the weight of 300 human beings 
right there and if that beam fails, hundreds can get killed or injured.

Don't you think it is time for us , specially in structural engineering,

to accept that not only the planet earth is inhabited but the 
inhabitants of this planet live and work in our structures trusting that

our foremost priority is their safety. Please do not tell me that of 
course in structural engineering we put safety first, may be most of us 
do, but, some do not and those of us who do have a responsibility and 
duty to make sure those few irresponsible individuals are filtered out 
of these great professions of civil engineering and structural 
engineering. The starting point can be this case of the ASCE's 
investigations of the Katrina catastrophe and the WTC towers collapse 
(http://civilengineeringcentral.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/asce-scanal/)

It is up to  all of us to save the reputation of  our profession and 
clean up our professional organizations of "morally corrupt" officials 
and members so that the public can trust us again as the dedicated civil

engineering and structural engineering professionals who are truly 
dedicated to public safety and not to protecting their fellow engineers 
and friends at the expense of public safety.

Please remember the saying that:  you can fool some people forever and 
you can fool everyone for sometime but you cannot fool everyone forever!
Sincerely,
Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor and Consultant on
Structural Engineering, Earthquake Engineering and
Protection of Buildings and Bridges against Blast and Impact.

================================

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