It is observed that the curent explanation for the 1940 destruction of the Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge in Washington State is flawed, and an alternative mathematical model has been developed that may elucidate the catastrophic collapse. A suspension bridge is distinguished by its fundamental nonlinearity. Nonlinear differential equations have been studied and key insights have been discovered as to why suspension bridges oscillate the way they do. These insights apply not only to the Tacoma Narrows bridge and San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge, which may be prone to large scale, potentially destructive oscillations during earthquakes, but also to large flexible structures, such as space stations and certain types of ships. The theory suggests ways of constructing extremely light, flexible bridges that will not oscillate wildly. In this study of large oscillations of suspension bridges, a significant factor is the behavior of the vertical strands of wire, or stays, connecting the roadbed to a bridge's main cable. Such behavior is described and explained. Nonlinear equations and the mathematical solutions they yield are discussed.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    Science Services, Incorporated

    1719 N Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20036
  • Authors:
    • Peterson, I
  • Publication Date: 1990-6-2

Media Info

  • Pagination: p. 344-346
  • Serial:
    • Science News
    • Volume: 137
    • Issue Number: 22
    • Publisher: Science Services, Incorporated
    • ISSN: 0036-8423

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00494789
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 30 1990 12:00AM