Archive for October, 2004
Join us as we penetrate the history of the world’s most sophisticated tank–the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. In the most radical departure in U.S. tank design since WWII, the Supertank combines speed, heavy protective armor, and a fearsome 120mm main gun. In 1991, the new and unproven Abrams tank was deployed in Operation Desert Storm. Using night vision and laser targeting, the M1 Abrams tank destroyed Saddam Hussein’s armored Republican Guard, and is again doing desert duty in the War in Iraq.
Join us for look into five engineering disasters… A dangerous cloud of gas explodes into Cleveland’s worst fiery industrial disaster in 1944, killing 128 people. A dance competition turns deadly at the new Kansas City Hyatt in 1981, when a skywalk gives way and kills 114. In 1995, neighbors gaped at the spectacle of a $1.5-million San Francisco Bay area mansion breaking into bits as it fell into a massive sinkhole during a rainstorm. In 1931, one of the worst “natural” disasters ever occurred in the Yangtze River basin when six huge flood waves swept down the river destroying the insufficient dams and levees and killing at least 145,000 people. The “miracle mineral” that the U.S. was built upon turns out to be an invisible killer–an estimated 10,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases.
Gas–it makes a balloon go up, cooks our food, and fills our lungs. But this invisible state of matter does far more, and has a very visible impact on the world. We follow natural gas from well tip to stove top and trace its use from 3rd century BC Chinese salt producers to modern appliances. Next, we investigate the most plentiful gas in the universe–hydrogen–which may also prove to be the most powerful. We also experience the cryogenic world of industrial gasses–what they do and where they come from–as we travel to the British Oxygen Company’s Braddock Air Separation Plant to see how they freeze millions of tons of oxygen and nitrogen. And at the Bush Dome Helium Reserve in Texas, we learn why the US government sits atop 36-billion cubic feet of the stuff. Finally, we look inside the colorful world of gas and neon lights. So lay back, breathe deep, and count backwards from 10…
Disasters investigated include: the 1984 Union Carbide debacle in Bhopal, India, where a toxic chemical release killed 3,800 people and left 11,000 with disabling respiratory ailments; and the 2003 sudden collapse of a 10-story parking garage at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, New Jersey that killed four and injured 20. We find out why a series of structures in Hutchinson, Kansas mysteriously caught fire and exploded in 2001; and examine the 1933 construction of a canal ordered by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that later proved to be nearly useless and cost many lives. And we get to the bottom of a maritime mystery, when a tanker carrying non-explosive materials in San Francisco Bay blew up in 1983.
What happens when the calculations of builders and engineers prove wrong and their constructs come tumbling down? In this episode, we examine the 1987 failure of the Schoharie Creek Bridge in New York; the partial destruction by a runaway freighter of the Riverwalk Marketplace in New Orleans in 1996; the roof collapse of the Rosemont Horizon Arena in Illinois in 1979; the deadliest grain-dust explosion on record in Westwego, Louisiana, when a grain elevator exploded in 1977; and the crash of the British R101 airship in the 1920s.