In 1938, with funding from the federal government, New York engineers designed the two-lane Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State. Through backdoor wrangling and a few greased palms, construction began. People from miles around had picnics on the hills above to watch the construction of the third longest suspension bridge in America. It was grand entertainment. It was history in the making.
After completion, the thin span began to bounce and sway. Many engineers thought the design dangerous. Even so, the bridge became wildly popular, even with its topside waving in the wind. The bridge would ultimately collapse into the Narrows below. Many believe the failure to be a combination of frequency and resonance, like a single note vibrating and shattering a crystal glass.
In 2016, a presidential primary was in progress. The frequency of news stories was intense. Certain candidates seemed to resonate with the masses, so dazzling with comebacks, one-liners and insults that it felt like we were all on a roller coaster. It was grand entertainment. It was history in the making.
There was a certain beautiful resonance to all of it, the way people’s brains were changing, their minds bridging electronic valleys with almost no effort at all. Their attention spans were shortening too, but they didn’t seem to care. They were busy. They clicked and bought things that showed up at their door. Everything was on track.
In 1940, a few months before the Narrows Bridge fell into the gorge, adventurous crowds crossed the bridge for the thrill of it. If DC and New York engineers had built it, what could go wrong? The bridge made some people seasick, but most of the people were thrilled to ride the bridge as it crested and undulated. The bridge was a big money maker. It was like a roller coaster. It was just plain fun.
In 2016, the presidential primary waged on. People were proud. They’d created a whole new frequency, and their resonance would make history.
With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.
Les Bloch is a construction project manager.