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Feats of Engineering

Palm Islands

America has a number of national landmarks that mark phenomenal leaps in engineering and technology. There’s the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, started in 1870 and completed in 1883, and is herald as one of the oldest and greatest suspension bridges ever built. When it was completed, it was fifty percent longer than any bridge previously built and was designated a national landmark in 1964. The Hoover Dam is another historic national landmark, started in 1931 and completed in 1935, the dam, located just south of Las Vegas, it was the tallest dam in the United States and host eight to ten million visitors a year. There’s the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, started in 1933 and completed in 1937, is another suspension bridge and had the title of longest central span of forty-two hundred feet and world’s tallest towers upon its completion. There’s the Sears Tower in Chicago, started in 1971 and completed in 1973, it stands as the world’s tallest building when antennas are included.

There’s Mount Rushmore, the granite rock sculpture near Keystone, South Dakota of Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. The United States has the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge back in New York City, the longest suspension bridge when it was completed back in 1964. There’s the Pentagon, the world’s largest office building, and the only building to survive being attacked by the hijackers in the September 2001 terrorist attacks. The way we’re taught to recognize and identify with our patriotism, Americans are led to believe that our landmarks and achievements of civil engineering are the greatest and comparable to anything anywhere else in the world.

But other counties in the world are coming along with their own versions of seriously impressive civil engineering projects. While the Sears tower still holds the record as the tallest building in the world and is very impressive, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur and completed in 1998 are pretty impressive examples of architecture themselves. Taipei 101 in Taipei City, China, completed in 2003 at a cost of one-point-six billion dollars, is the tallest building in the world when measured from floor to roof minus any antenna masts and features a tuned mass dampener that actively counters the sway of the building.

But what is truly impressive is the plan for the Burj Dubai tower in downtown Dubai, United Arab Emirates, started in 2004. Although its actual planned height is a closely guarded secret it is projected to stand well over twenty-six-hundred feet tall once it’s completed in 2009, dwarfing the Sears Tower by nearly twelve hundred feet. It will be the tallest freestanding structure in the world and have the most floors putting to rest all the contentions for world’s tallest structure, by root top, mast top, usable floor, occupied floor, floor to basement, floor to mailroom, and all that other nonsense as well.

And while we puff our collective chests out for our historical suspension bridges, Japan has upped the ante with the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge that crosses the Akashi Strait. It is has the longest center span measuring over sixty-five hundred feet, outdistancing the Golden Gate’s center span by twenty-three hundred feet.

The United States Corp of engineers struggle to build levees around New Orleans using technology patented by relatives of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. And while we question the effectiveness of repairing the levees with the same ill conceived water barrier design, the Netherlands have recently completed their Delta Works project. The Delta Works is a civil project started in 1950 and completed in 1997, to protect the Netherlands from the sea with a complex system of dams, gates, dykes, locks, and storm surge barriers while at the same time allow sea faring vessels to easily and efficiently pass through unhindered. The Delta Works project has over ten thousand miles of dykes. Due to climate change and the increasing sea levels, the dykes will have to be made even higher and more extensive. But understanding the impact to their country the project is continuing without question and will be completed in 2015. Cost is not an issue.

The infamous Big Dig of Boston, Massachusetts is the most expensive highway construction project ever implemented in the United States. The project was designed to reroute the I-93 artery into the heart of Boston into a three-point-five mile long state of the art tunnel under the city. Originally estimated to cost no more than three billion dollars, the cost overruns have ballooned the tab to well over fifteen billion dollars and has endured fraud from contractors trying to hide their shoddy construction and the use of substandard materials. The tunnel has been riddled with leaks from the Charles River in the ceiling and walls and suffered a fatal ceiling collapse in July of 2006. The government as well as the contractors were aware of the problems but were pressured to make compromises in order to keep the project from falling further behind in schedule and incurring even greater costs.

While Boston’s Big Dig languishes as one of the most prime examples of American corporate malfeasance, Dubai continues to impress the world with civil projects like their Palm Islands project, a series of three artificial islands communities shaped to resemble palm trees and holding a number of villas and apartments to accommodate thousands of residents along with hotels, shopping centers, entertainment centers and the like. This project, along with the Burj Dubai Tower and other fantastic engineering projects throughout the area, is designed to make the entire city of Dubai the paramount tourist destination of the world.

It may not be totally fair to compare the Big Dig of Boston to something like the projects of Dubai or the levee system of New Orleans to the Delta Works of the Netherlands. But Americans as a whole spend way too much time remembering past achievements and not enough time developing new ones. Most of our time is spent renovating and repairing projects that were originally built decades ago instead of conceiving new ideas for superior solutions.

In fact, the only time the United States has the collective will to develop a state of the art engineering project without any cost consideration is when our military is paying for it. The United States has the most imposing aircraft carriers in the world. And while our submarines may not be the largest in the world, but they are state of the art and they don’t go around fatally blowing themselves up during war exercises. The B-2 Stealth Bomber is another extraordinary weapons system that can deliver the wrath of the United States to the doorstep of anyone in the entire world. The F-15 Eagle and the F-18 Hornet were such imposing air-to-air combat weapon systems that anything that was to going to supersede them had to push the envelope beyond the average imagination and the F-22 Raptor does just that and adds stealth technology to boot. Our military is the most advanced with night vision goggles, satellite communications, unmanned aerial vehicles, tanks that can fire dozens of rounds in a single minute, helicopters that can fly upside down for hours, and plans for troop carriers that make the space shuttle look slow.

The United States is by far the most impressive destructive force on the planet. Our engineering projects can kick anyone else’s engineering project’s ass. You can bet we won’t rest on the laurels of our destructive capability. We’re constantly refining nuclear missiles that can blow up cities with only half the fallout of last year’s missile. So while the rest of the world works for the betterment of their people and the protection of their environments with construction, we’ll enjoy our past, visit Mount Rushmore and the Sears Tower and remember how impressive they were when they were completed a hundred years ago, and then try to intimidate the world with a bomb so destructive that when it goes off by the time their ears stop ringing their clothes will be out of style.

Friday, June 29, 2007 - Posted by | Black Community, Black Culture, Black People

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