The Past And Future Of Suspension Bridges

994 words - 4 pages

For many centuries, mankind has worked tirelessly to adapt his environment to his needs. This means artificially fertilizing soil, genetically engineering plants, even attempting to create rain artificially (Mone). However, sometimes, water has gotten in the way, so, when man wants to build his roads across them, his solution was: Pick up the road and carry it across.
Many suspension bridges are already well known for their frequent usage. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Union Bridge connecting England to Scotland, and the Brooklyn Bridge, which expands New York City to surrounding islands. Now, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, a suspension bridge is “a bridge having the roadway suspended from cables that are anchored at either end and usually supported at intervals by towers.” This, though, is simply the skeleton of the concept. There is huge potential in suspension bridges for the future, but, as it is said, we must learn from the mistakes of the past or we will be doomed to repeat them. What makes a suspension bridge work, what hazards lie on the path, and what can we reach with the resources we have today?
The suspension bridge is fundamentally supported by stringing up the road on heavy-duty steel cables, usually wound in large groups. A long, parabolic wire runs the length of the bridge on both sides. This cable is held taut, suspended on the towers and connected to the anchorages on either side, which anchor the wire and channel stress into the Earth. (Morrissey, Michael) The cables running from the side of the road to the parabolic cable transfer all of the weight to the longer cable, but these cables are more slacked than one would think. This phenomenon is the same experienced when water skiing. The rope pulling the skier is slack, but is experiencing forces of approximately 950 N at times. The reason is this: as forces, in the water skiing example, the pulling of the boat as well as the friction and inertia of the skier, are exerted on the ends of the rope, they stress on the rope dissipates slowly as distance increases, because work over a distance requires more force. Therefore, since the forces are concentrated on the ends of the rope, less force is exerted on the center of the rope and hence it is the most affected by gravity, being not suspended by any significant force. Now, the rope, and any cable suspended in this style, has a parabolic shape and as the rider moves around in all directions, the rope is thrown around, and once again the center, being not held stationary by a force, is thrown around, giving it a slacked appearance. In suspension bridges, the vertical cables will sag in a downward direction and when they are moved, they will act in the same fashion, appearing slacked. In order to hold the center of these ropes stationary, a force would need to be exerted on the end that is strong...

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