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How Much Do I Have to Know to Design a Bridge?: Engineering Around Ignorance
MRIC 2004/05

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"How Much Do I Have to Know to Design a Bridge?: Engineering Around Ignorance"

February 8th  
Richard Nielsen - Civil Engineering

Abstract: An ever-present challenge in structural engineering is the need to design something without knowing exactly how it will be used throughout its lifetime, what loads it will have to carry, or that it will even be built the way it was designed. In spite of the ignorance engineers face, they have designed successful structures for centuries. Ongoing research into loads and accelerating advances in computational methods have significantly reduced the amount of ignorance that an engineer must account for in his or her designs, but it is debatable as to whether or not these improvements have increased the reliability of built structures. This evolving understanding of engineering has a direct effect on us both in terms of safety and economics, which is illustrated by an on-going research effort focused on the Perrine bridge in southern Idaho.

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