engineering, humor, STEM

Creativity Averted Catastrophe

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before-afterDesigned and built long before there were supercomputers, the great Gothic cathedrals often developed cracks and bulges.hernia-support-belt_200x206

When more buttressing did not look like it would be enough to avert a catastrophic collapse at Amiens, the engineers there devised a way to get the net effect of putting a really big and really strong hernia support belt around the cathedral walls.  Cathedrals don’t wear clothes; how do U hide such a belt?  How do U cinch it?  How do U accomplish all that with medieval technology?

The answers are sketched in the Wikipedia article on the Amiens Cathedral and visualized in a 2010 NOVA episode on PBS: Building the Great Cathedrals.  (To read more detail, look for “iron” in the transcript.)  U can blame me for bringing up hernias.

Dunno whether the engineers at Amiens were called ingénieurs at the time; at least one of them should have been called créatif.  The cathedral is an enduring monument to the faith of many and the creativity of some, including a few engineers.

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humor, math

Like a Good Priest

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I did not have pen in hand when a bemused radio announcer commented after playing Bach’s 4th Brandenburg recently, so the following quote may not be perfectly exact.  It is very very close.

How can anything so complicated and so mathematical be so beautiful?

Imagine a priest who hears one of the great settings of the Mass (or a tour of a Gothic cathedral) followed by

How can anything so complicated and so religious be so beautiful?

That is essentially how I felt.  With considerable effort, one could make enough dissonant noise to be as grating as the remark.  Scratch a chalkboard with the fingernails of one hand.  Bang on the cracks between a few piano keys with the fingers of the other.  Step on a cat’s tail and fart loudly.  Doing all that would suffice.

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A good priest would redirect any shock or anger at the remark into sorrow and pity for the wayward soul of a heathen who meant no harm.  In this one respect anyway, I try to be like a good priest (or a good imam).

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Image Sources

Photos were downloaded from Wiki Commons and are used under Creative Commons licenses.