Outline of discussion items & activities for 2nd Class (Apr 7)

Recap of previous class

Dominoes stack and corbelled arches
  • Dominoes a matter of stability (plus...). Recall the nice quote from Gordon (see MasonryStability).
  • Here's a nice link on corbelled (preRoman technology) construction http://www.pierreseche.com/
  • If you were to make a corbelled arch today how would you plan it?

Pre-scientific vs post-scientific ways of thinking about the dominoes problem:

  • 5000BC: Each stone can lean so far over the one below without being unbalanced... Adding more stones on the back side helps. Build it soundly and don't try to lean out too far.
  • 14th Century: It's a matter of having correct and harmonious proportions. If the proportions of all the elements are correct then it will be strong.
  • 19th Century: I can calculate this using center of mass and adding up the forces. The amount varies depending on the stack above. One should get some kind of a series... This can be calculated.
  • 20th Century But somebody has surely done this already, let's see if there are any papers about it.
  • 21st Century: Let's try Googling the subject.


  • For April 7: skim p 171-197 of Gordon (in course reader)
  • For April 12: read p 36-37, 46-59 of Gordon (in course reader); read p 225-242 of Salvadori (in course reader).
  • For 14: read Cha 1-6 of Brunelleschi's Dome
  • For April 12,14: FirstNotebookItem

La Torre Pendente: pre-Renaissance design, issues of technology, stability and impending collapse.

  • NOVA video & discussion (see LeaningTowerAssignmentME21N for background)
  • Q: What was state of the art in the 1200s?
  • Q: What did they know and what could they do about it?

Preview of field trip to Pisa

  • Take the 08:27 train from SMN. Tickets = 5 Euros at machine.
  • Walk to la Torre (it may be raining...) and see if can meet Mr. Balestri on the way.
  • Find out how soon we can go up, meanwhile see the Pisano scupltures in cathedral & baptistry
  • Lunch near Piazza dei Cavelieri?

-- MarkCutkosky - 06 Apr 2005

  • downtown Pisa:
  • Albertis bldg in via...:
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