Where Our World Comes From

A few yards from Alexander Hamilton’s grave is Robert Fulton’s.

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Or maybe Robert Fvlton’s. I’d argue that it’s a toss-up who had the bigger influence on American history: the man who helped create our government’s finances, or the man who (a) really helped popularize industrialization and (b) got the Supreme Court to speak up about interstate commerce.

Looking Up

A few months ago, I was at an event at the recently-renovated Williamsburgh Bank. I obviously approve of adaptive reuse, and it’s a gorgeous building, so I was generally happy. However, shoving 400 people onto the main banking floor meant that it was difficult to see some of the beautiful original/restored architectural detail.

So I looked up, at the underside of the dome.

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How Did I Not Know This?

I’m a fan of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He was an insanely talented engineer and pretty much defined indefatigable with his launch of the S.S. Great Eastern. (When I last worked for a big company, I had my computer desktop background dark gray with two pictures near the center. One day the head of marketing stopped by my office to ask some questions and noticed the pictures. “Your grandfathers?” she asked. “Not quite.”

Brunel designed and built a lenticular truss!

The difference between the tubular upper chord and the chain lower chord is a nice expression of structural intent: the upper chord is a compression arch and the tube form is the best to resist buckling; the lower chord is a tension catenary where buckling can’t occur.