Right from the start, people knew something was up. Whenever the wind would start blowing, the air would catch the I-beams and shake the bridge like a paint can. The bridge deck would rise and fall several feet, and crossing it was like driving on a waterbed. It twisted and moved so much that the locals nicknamed it "Galloping Gertie."
Making things worse, the wind often happened to be blowing at just the right speed to get the bridge to vibrate at its natural frequency: a particularly dangerous situation. Realizing that bridges aren't supposed to have seizures, the state hired an engineering professor to try to fix the design mistakes. Among the solutions he proposed was the idea of just drilling some holes in the I-beams so the wind could pass through it without the bridge getting all pissy. An easy fix; we bet they felt silly for not thinking of it earlier.
But, before that or any of the other ideas could be enacted, the bridge collapsed.
"You know what's really safe? No bridge at all!"
They would rebuild it a decade later. And see if you can spot the simple difference in design:
It's still flipping the bird at nature. Behind its back.
The Titanic Sank Because the Center Propeller Wouldn't Reverse
There are dozens of theories about how the Titanic sinking could have been prevented, from those who say they should have just rammed the iceberg head-on instead of trying to steer around it, to not taunting God prior to its first voyage.
The dummy fourth funnel was actually a Satanic bullhorn.
Human stupidity notwithstanding, most of the criticism focuses on the atrocious lack of safety features, but there is one obscure flaw that was intentionally designed.
The Laughably Simple Flaw:
The center propeller didn't work in reverse.
The Titanic had three steam-driven propellers, with the outer two driven by piston engines and the center screw driven by a steam turbine. Steam turbines have the advantage of generally being smaller and more efficient than their piston counterparts, but have the drawback of being one-way; that is, the steam can only flow forward and the shaft can only turn in one direction.
It's like trying to force a screw to go in counterclockwise. It's not going to happen.
So when First Officer Murdoch slammed the big girl into full reverse in order to avoid the iceberg, the outer two screws started turning the other way, while the center one just stopped (correctly portrayed in the movie). It sort of makes sense; if you're trying to go backward, you don't want one of your propellers still pushing you forward.
However, the center screw was directly in front of the rudder, and shutting it down meant less water was washing over the rudder, which crippled the ship's handling.
Had the center prop been designed in such a way that it kept turning in the event of a reversal (or if they hadn't reversed at all), it's pretty likely the ship would have missed the iceberg completely, saving the lives of 1,514 people and eight dogs.
When he's not pointing out other people's failures, Chris writes for his website and tweets.
For more minuscule yet catastrophic mistakes, check out 5 Tiny Computer Glitches That Caused Huge Disasters and The 7 Most Disastrous Typos Of All Time.
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