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Mechanics in the news
Since I am an alum of the University of Minnesota, when I was a PhD student I lived only a few blocks from the site of yesterday's catastrophic bridge collapse in Minneapolis. The statics analysis of a truss is almost the first thing learned by every undergraduate engineering student, and appears to be relevant here. It is interesting to see words like "fatigue crack" and "vibrations" in the news . In light of such events, never has there been a better time to step forward and emphasize the importance of mechanics in daily life! Each time we drive across a bridge we are relying on the engineers of years past to have done their job correctly. We can argue on this forum about the meaning of elastic modulus for a carbon nanotube , or what happens to dislocations in micropillar compression , but all around us macroscopic human-scale mechanics is in our lives, and unfortunately now also in the news. Perhaps in this case the engineers of the 1960s were a bit lax: the interest and faith in steel as a wonder material may have caused a lack of design redundancy that has now apparently taken many lives. I recommend the book "Why Buildings Fall Down " as a fascinating read and study of engineering/mechanics principles suitable for a lay audience... and I truly hope that in tragedy we are reminded of the fundamental importance of our great field of mechanics. There is an important educational lesson in this as well. Getting the basics "right" is not an option--human lives are on the line if we don't put significant efforts into training the next generation of bridge designers and inspectors. Mechanics is at the core of our modern existence.