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Design Paradigms by Henry Petroski

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4

Galileo and the Marble Column

A Paradigm of a Design Change for the Worse

 

 

 

Galileo begins the first day of Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences by relating several stories of contemporary structural failures that were inexplicable within the state of the art of Renaissance engineering. As indicated in the last chapter, several of the stories have to do with the problem of proportionately similar structures behaving differently depending upon whether they are large or small, hence manifesting a scale effect. According to Galileo,

Thus, for example, a small obelisk or column or other solid figure can certainly be laid down or set up without danger of breaking, while the very large ones will go to pieces under the slightest provocation, ...

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