New Meetup: Lunch with John Ochsendorf, 2008’s MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner @ MIT Museum

From: T.J. M.
Sent on: Sunday, April 26, 2009 10:35 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for Nerd Fun - Boston!

What: Lunch with John Ochsendorf, 2008?s MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner @ MIT Museum

When: April 28,[masked]:00 PM

Where: Click the link below to find out!

Meetup Description: "Lunch With a Luminary" is being held all week at the MIT Museum. Bring your own lunch and come at noon. Admission to each talk is free of charge. It's a Cambridge Science Festival Event, held from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm.

Lunch with a Luminary - John Ochsendorf

"Bring your lunch and your questions for a chat with one of 2008?s MacArthur "Genius Grant" winners, John Ochsendorf. Ochsendorf is an MIT professor of building technology, whose work straddles the fields of engineering, archaeology and architectural history. He explores alternative engineering traditions ranging from the ancient to the medieval, looking at structures such as Incan rope suspension bridges and French stone masonry arches".

Where to meet:

T.J. Maher hopefully will plan this just right and be there by 11:50 am and grab seats right off the bat when he gets there, placing a few MEETUP signs on chairs for people who RSVP YES. T.J. Maher is 5 foot 7, with bright blue eyes, short brown hair spiked in the front, and a red MEETUP sign attached to his black messenger bag. This is going to be hectic trying to get there and find everybody. Might as well try it, eh?

John Ochsendorf
Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"John Ochsendorf is a structural engineer and architectural historian who works to preserve historic structures and to reinterpret ancient technologies for contemporary use. In a discipline whose practitioners rarely venture into comparative cultural and historical studies, Ochsendorf is a pioneer in exploring alternative engineering traditions. His early studies investigated the construction of hand-woven, fiber suspension bridges that spanned the deep ravines and connected the territories of the Inca Empire. In addition to conducting fieldwork in Peru and analyzing historical accounts of these bridges, he developed a method for testing the strength of the ancient rope-weaving technique to produce the first data on its performance. His cross-cultural interest in bridges also led him to in-depth studies of suspension and cable-stayed bridges in Japan. More recently, Ochsendorf has turned his attention to identifying the causes of vault and buttress failures in French and Spanish Romanesque churches. Applying his understanding of structural mechanics to problems of masonry construction, his detailed analyses of barrel-vaulted churches are helping to evaluate the safety and condition of particular buildings and to develop practical strategies to address their vulnerabilities, stabilization, and restoration".

How the Incans Lept Canyons
New York Times
Published: May 8, 2007

Conquistadors from Spain came, they saw and they were astonished. They had never seen anything in Europe like the bridges of Peru. Chroniclers wrote that the Spanish soldiers stood in awe and fear before the spans of braided fiber cables suspended across deep gorges in the Andes, narrow walkways sagging and swaying and looking so frail.

Yet the suspension bridges were familiar and vital links in the vast empire of the Inca, as they had been to Andean cultures for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. The people had not developed the stone arch or wheeled vehicles, but they were accomplished in the use of natural fibers for textiles, boats, sling weapons ? even keeping inventories by a prewriting system of knots.

So bridges made of fiber ropes, some as thick as a man?s torso, were the technological solution to the problem of road building in rugged terrain. By some estimates, at least 200 such suspension bridges spanned river gorges in the 16th century. One of the last of these, over the Apurimac River, inspired Thornton Wilder?s novel ?The Bridge of San Luis Rey.?

Although scholars have studied the Inca road system?s importance in forging and controlling the pre-Columbian empire, John A.Ochsendorf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology here said, ?Historians and archaeologists have neglected the role of bridges.?

Dr. Ochsendorf?s research on Inca suspension bridges, begun while he was an undergraduate at Cornell University, illustrates an engineering university?s approach to archaeology, combining materials science and experimentation with the traditional fieldwork of observing and dating artifacts. Other universities conduct research in archaeological materials, but it has long been a specialty at M.I.T. [ MORE: ]

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