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The Bridge Blog
A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages

Overview. As a pointy-headed university professor, my weekend project of bridge photography and building these web pages generated many questions and introduced me to just-in-time learning. I enjoy chasing my curiosity and want to identify ways to encourage younger learners to also enjoy curiosity chasing and learning.

Learning usually requires repetition while forgetting occurs when I infrequently use information. Many young learners do not understand the importance of repetition. Weekly visits to the bridge provided the repetition necessary to detect changes in the bridge and consequently generated many questions and opportunities for learning. Over the course of the bridge project, I had access to few experts for answering questions. Rather than a liability, this became an asset and pushed me to improve my search skills with Google. Soon, I found that answers to questions encountered during my weekly photo shoots were often only a Google-search away - (see Restoring the Joy in Learning). Consequently Google + Internet became dependable extensions of my memory.

The bridge story is a work in progress and is evolving from a simple collections of photographs to an experiment with Internet-centric just-in-time learning. Insights I gain from you will find their way into the learning centers of MUSC. Palmetto Bridge Constructors, a joint venture between Tidewater Skanska and Flatiron Constructors, as well as High Steel Structures, Freyssinet, the SCDOT and the Federal Highway Commission Office of Bridge Technology guided much of my learning. I also learn from many of you and from Google-linked resources. More important is the e-mail encouragement I receive from many of you.

Thu, 21 Apr 2005

April 21, 2005: Another kind of cable strand
As you know, I am chasing the question: What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything - as stated in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Said another way, is there life after our adventure with the new Cooper River Bridge?

Yesterday was simply chaos cubed. My primary web server (monitor) died while I was deleting some old files in order to free up some space. Obviously I deleted something that should not have been deleted - so from about 1pm until 4pm - my site was dead and I was frantic. Clearly, I needed a distraction.

Last night, Ellen and I had a quiet dinner and talked a bit about our projects. Now is when baby spiders start to appear in Charleston, so I went out about 7:30 pm looking for our evening spiders ( Neoscona hentzi or barn spider). These little wonders build their webs in the early evening and destroy them in the early morning - at least usually. I found a few babies (about 0.5 cm in diameter) in our garden and tried to take some photos, but the conditions were not good, a gentle breeze was blowing the spider and web in and out of the focal plane and I had no tripod. Knowing that they would still be there in the morning, I returned about 5:30am, with camera, tripod and chair. To my surprise one was rebuilding her web instead of unbuilding it. I set up the camera, found a good focus and with a flashlight to illuminate her, started taking photos. I got lucky and one photo showed her with a silk strand extending from her spinneret. Just like Freyssinet unwinding strands from a big spool of cable, these little wonders synthesize and extrude silk from a spinneret and build strands in an as yet unknown manner. So above is a photo of her, extruding a silk strand and her weaving. I am accumulating these images and a story which are available here. Earlier photos of a (large) adult Neoscona hentzi are here. And all of my spider (and underwater) photos can be found here.

Meanwhile, I have sent email to the Boston company that was awarded the contract to remove the old bridges - but so far, no reply but I am cautiously optimistic. No matter what, I plan to take a routine data set each week starting whenever.

posted at: 17:21 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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