There are just so many creative people in our world. There are artists who make us see the world afresh through visual media. There are musicians who play with our emotions just like they play their instruments. There are writers who make us think, feel and imagine through words alone.
But what if your medium was the physical world itself, and your task was to make the impossible possible? That would make you awesome. That would make you an engineer.
Did you know that the coldest known place in the universe isn’t outer space, but a laboratory here on Earth? Did you know that the air inside a jet engine is so hot that its temperature is higher than the melting point of the metal it’s made from? Engineers made these things possible.
Here I want to talk about a very simple invention that transformed our world. Bridges.
Bridges are amazing. They cross chasms. They connect places that would otherwise be unreachable. They change the geography of our world and let us live in places that would be uninhabitable.
A simple bridge looks like this:
But there’s a limit to how long you can make it before it collapses. To span greater distances you can make a bridge like this:
But this is expensive, much harder to build and you can’t sail large ships between the supports. Imagine if you didn’t need to support a bridge from below, but could hang it from the sky? Then all your problems would disappear and you could make a bridge as long as you liked:
Imagine being the person who had the audacity to think of this for the first time. Imagine being Fausto Veranzio, the Venetian polymath who designed a suspension bridge in 1595, some two centuries before the first such bridge was ever built.