All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Is Everything We Thought We Knew About Bridges Also About Dragonflies?

Over this essay is the longest title I've ever used. Titles here are usually short, but lately readership has fallen off and I thought maybe a long title...well, silly really, but the need to DO something about it is compelling --sometimes even I need a false sense of security. Enough said, let's proceed. The other day, Norma came in with a Normaphoto of a dragonfly. As elsewhere mentioned, wild creatures allow her within inches of themselves --she has no telephoto equipment, only an Ipad. She is a quiet, gentle girl who has no harm in her and wild things sense it. Here:
I was struck by the structural integrity of its wings. You see it at the top margin of each of its four transparent spans. I have seen such lateral bracing before, not on insects but on bridges that span the rivers that flow through this valley. We mostly have Bailey Bridges and Lift Bridges like these:

Lateral bracing is used to support forces of compression and tension. But one bridge leapt to the forefront of concern. I drew a doodle of the Jibboom Street Bridge, my favorite bridge at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers:
This isn't the whole bridge, just the part that makes it unique. The support you see mid-span contains a trunnion bearing, on which the balanced  truss can be turned 90 degrees to let tall vessels come through. So I asked her, "Could you get in closer?"

She said, "I did."
This is not a photographic enlargement; Norma really got within an inch of the creature --close enough to see its works before it flew away. We can see a system of braces and supports converging upon ten bearings that permit its machineries of flight to run smoothly. Solid and sturdy as these trusses appear, I believe they also, by curious corbeling, allow air to flow efficiently along wingspans. Before seeing these Normaphotos I had only ever imagined transparent inefficiencies--
--but now I see there is much to be learned from dragonfly wings. They are in advance of us and our big brains. Good thing too. If our bridges copied them too closely, they would fly away! But, with artistic and architectural restraint --knowing where to draw the line-- we can consider them enigmatic wonders of identical construction.



29 comments:

  1. That is AMAZING. I wonder if a structural engineer studied dragonflies to come up with the man-made copy ...

    And I am impressed that Norma is taking her excellent photos with an iPad. It's better than some cameras! (including mine)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. O_Jenny, thank you. Norma is remarkable and I was happy to find the plastic dragonfly in my toybox to overlay the closing picture. We live amid mysteries --good thing too!

      Delete
  2. I am in awe! Dragonflies are constantly on the move and spooked by the least movement. For Norma to get these magnificent pictures is beyond my understanding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Emma, I met Norma in 1968 and she is still beyond my understanding. I have never gotten her limits. Thank you for reading these posts.

      Delete
  3. Normaphotos always brighten my day.
    I am convinced that the best and the brightest of our scientists, architects, poets, and dreamers DO study nature. And gain immeasurably.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Norma's asleep right now but in the morning I'll relay your generous compliment. However, I offer a favorite quote from Hugh Laurie: "Animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers." Somehow, Norma has a knack for calming all creatures, even me.

      Delete
  4. Geo, it grieves me that your readership appears to have declined recently. Of all the blogs I currently read, yours is one I never miss, nor Norma's beautiful and thought-provoking photographs. Unfortunately, I do not always have worthy comment to make.

    But turning to the structure of this dragonfly, it is stunning. I suspect that somewhere along the line, all mankind's technological problems have been solved in the rest of the bio-kingdom. That this creature is nearly weightless, in a world where gravity has such marked effects, adds to the mystery and delight for me.

    Thank you [both] for this engineering masterpiece.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank YOU, Tom. I've followed your inquiry into existence long enough to understand what a privilege it is to live on this world, this wondrous biosystem. In a universe in which all possibilities are assembled, there are bound to be some remarkable events. Sometimes we must look very closely to see them. That's where Norma's nearly supernatural photographic skills come in handy. I'll relay your kind comment to her in the morning.

      Delete
  5. That Norma got so close to photograph the detail is amazing and so is the dragonfly itself. Nature has given us perfection and it is for us to learn and not destroy.

    You didn't need a long title, Geo; you had me at "Is".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Arleen. Insect anatomy always astonished me. And "Is" could be a good title all by itself --it's a word that always seems to exceed its definition.

      Delete
  6. I've neveer allowed myself to be that close to one. Look at what I've been missing. Flying bridges.......there's a story there somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe it's good that bridges don't fly. Have you seen what happens when a really big one perches on a telephone wire?

      Delete
  7. There's a pond in the woods not far from us where numerous dragonflies are always flitting around, which is why I enjoy going there so much. They're truly magical creatures, aren't they? So delicately beautiful with those see-through gossamer wings. As much as I enjoy watching them, I've never even carried a camera with me. Norma's pictures are fantabulous, and so is your analogy. How can anyone look at the amazing structure and symmetry of nature and believe it's all coincidental? I absolutely believe some of the best engineering marvels in the world follow the designs of nature.

    Great post, dude.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Certainly it's coincidental, Susan, just as a billion years of meteor bombardments carved a humanoid face on the full moon. Pareidolia is a fancy word but has its limits. Relayed your compliment to Norma --she doesn't admit to doing anything exceptional. Stubborn girl, but I love her.

      Delete
  8. Norma's photos of the dragonfly are astounding (I've never seen one that close before)and your comparison of their structure to that of bridges is enlightening. I always learn here.

    You mentioned that your readership has fallen off lately. Some blogs are so good that they go completely over the "average" person's head. That's a compliment.
    I am not at all scientifically inclined and I'm often hesitant to leave a comment because my input is virtually worthless.

    My blog readership has fallen drastically - - and my political views have a lot to do with it (even though I seldom get political - - but readers have memories like elephants).

    Also, some readers can't tolerate too much of a good thing....
    (should a *smile* be inserted here?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear dear Jon, your comments are NEVER worthless. Your politics and mine are antipodal but your sense of goodness and humanity is unimpeachable. It's character --the kind of difference that strengthens the whole. Government by discussion would be a sad sham if we all agreed on every issue. We are more than that. What prosperity and peace we have is the product of workable compromises.

      Delete
  9. I think it is amazing that Norma took those closeups of a dragonfly with an iPad, Geo. Dragonflies always zip around me. I think they immediately sense that I am high strung and disaster sometimes follows in my wake. LOL I really enjoyed the comparison of the dragonfly's wing structure to that of a bridge. Structures in nature are amazing. I'm traveling again, and I've had trouble with my computer and accessing the internet. It's frustrating, but I always enjoy catching up on your posts. Say thanks for me to Norma for her beautiful photos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will definitely convey your thanks to Norma, Louise. Hope your internet access problems get solved. Sometimes I think interactions with wild things can be eased with slow and gradual actions on our part. I can maneuver around skunks without alarming them --so far-- but Norma has a innate ability to calm all manner of creatures. I don't know how she does it --wish I did. I noticed it nearly 50 years ago when a gibbon reached out from its cage in the zoo to hold my hand. Its eyes were on Norma.

      Delete
  10. Fascinating! The Normaphotos are incredible and the comparison to bridge spans is stunning. I will never look at either a dragonfly or a bridge span in the same manner I did before reading this wonderful post. Thanks to you both. And thanks to that beautiful and trusting dragonfly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The world is full of machineries of joy and wonder, Tom. Good thing, too! Told photographer you like her work --she glowed.

      Delete
  11. I have a dragonfly tattoo on my left shoulder - an Emperor Dragonfly. He has been there for so long I fear if I should ever get re-inked, he would take umbrage. I know it's irrational but it feels true :-) Probably also irrational but the idea of a flying bridge seems perfectly excellent. I apologise for my lack of interaction lately - been typesetting. This makes me very skittish, probably need some Normavibes to get me settled on a leaf. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful to see your comment here again, Lisa. I figured you must be up to some engrossing project. Typesetting --as in letterpress printing? Sending good vibes your way.

      Delete
    2. Letterpress would be amazing - in theory! Probably at least as infuriating as this digital nonsense in practice...
      Waiting on cover art and little details like page numbers for chapters, not too far away from bringing out an actual grown-up novel.
      Good vibes have arrived safe, are buzzing around the desk :-)

      Delete
  12. Those are amazing pictures! I knew this, for once. There was an Awake article a few years ago about engineers copying the design of the dragonflies wing. And I believe, thought I'd have to do some research to find it, that I read about some new lenses being developed based on the dragonfly's eyes. https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102010290?q=was+it+designed+dragonfly&p=par

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lori! I visited the Watchtower site you provided and learned some things from article: "The microthin wing of the dragonfly is corrugated, with pleats that prevent it from bending...the pleats also give the dragonfly greater lift while gliding." I thought immediately our barn roof of corrugated steel panels --which greatly increase its tensile strength.

      Delete
  13. Our house is built on a foundation that has been described to us as being, "like a bridge," rather than a slab.

    Reading this post, I imagined, for the first time, our multi-level, cliffhugging half of a duplex taking flight while we dream.

    It all makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does make sense, Suze. As confirmed empirically in psychology, the house has a strong association with the mind --in dreams, with layers of the psyche.

      Delete

I value your comments. Say hello. Reach out a bit. I do.