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Ellise Mae B.

Texon
10 - Photon

The Failure of the Ignorance of Physics (The


Tacoma Narrows Bridge)

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was considered as the most modern suspension
bridge, with the most advanced design. We would ask on how such an architectural
genius like that would fail tremendously? Though it might be all of those things but
there was one flaw that couldn’t hide itself over time. That one flaw was that they
ignored the physics behind. Even though the signs of the collapse did not show itself
overnight.
The bridge was oscillating like a spring with a mass attached to it. The mass
causes the spring to stretch downwards, until eventually the spring contracts back
upwards to return to its original shape; However, this is not the case on both. The
spring with the mass attached eventually slows down and stops oscillating while the
just keeps oscillating in the wind until it literally shakes itself apart. The reason the
spring stops and the bridge doesn't have to do with the type of harmonic motion they
experience. The spring with a mass attached to it is experiencing damped harmonic
motion. A damped harmonic oscillator is one that constantly loses energy. In many
cases this energy is lost due to friction, air resistance, or a combination of the two.
This is the case for our spring, as it slowly loses energy to air resistance and friction
until it stops oscillating all together. Well this was not the case Instead of being
damped, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge experienced driven harmonic motion. A driven
harmonic oscillator is given energy by some external source. In the case of the
Tacoma Narrows Bridge, it was the wind that was adding energy to it in order to keep
it oscillating. Without the wind keeping it going the bridge would have been a damped
oscillator, and eventually slowed down to a stop just like the spring.
It had an abnormal width to length ratio which made it very flexible. And
because of its divergent flexibility which led to a cable band to split into two unequal
segments. Which caused the shift from vertical to torsional movement. Contributing
to the torsional movement was the vortex shedding. Vortex shedding happens when
wind hits a structure, causing alternating vortices to form at a certain frequency. This
in turn causes the system to excite and produce a vibrational load. The twisting bridge
deck caused the wind flow separation to increase. This formed a vortex, or swirling
wind force, which further lifted and twisted the deck. The deck structure resisted this
lifting and twisting. It had a natural tendency to return to its previous position. As it
returned, its speed and direction matched the lifting force. In other words, it moved "
in phase" with the vortex. Then, the wind reinforced that motion. This produced a "lock-
on" event. But, the external force of the wind alone was not sufficient to cause the
severe twisting that led the Narrows Bridge to fail.

A structure is never really complete without the


principles of physics.