Managing Through Tough Times : Finding Your Inner Ball
Posted by danspira
As an elegant solution to stabilizing the tower against lateral stresses such as wind shear and earthquakes (because human civilizations have a tendency to build along windy coasts and major fault lines), the designers of the Taipei 101 skyscraper threw a ball at the problem: A 730 ton, $4 million suspended sphere made from 41 welded steel plates, hung on public display in an atrium between the 87th and 91st floors, where it acts as a tuned mass damper.
In other words, it’s a carefully calibrated (tuned), massive hanging ball (mass) that counteracts against the swaying motion of the building (damper). As the building moves in one direction, the inertia of the ball creates resistance, reducing the overall movement by up to 40%. The owners of the building have dubbed the ball “Damper Baby” (apparently it’s a Libra). The building shakes, the ball jiggles, the schoolchildren giggle. It’s all good.
Thank you SMG for sending me this link on Gizmodo (complete with all the obvious big ball comments). The post includes a video of the ball — or rather, the building — shaking, supposedly during the recent Sichuan Earthquake in China.
I like this big ball. For one thing, it’s big. And it’s not just big. It’s heavy. Ponderous. It’s cradled by several well-lubricated, finger-like, heavy-duty hydraulic pistons. You can’t just get balls like this shipped in overnight. You have to grow ’em, one steel plate at a time (because cranes can’t lift the whole ball). You need big, thick cables to hold up this ball. The ball is a powerful, potent metaphor, just hanging over your head. Don’t drop the ball — there are people with offices right under it. Hang the ball up high, where it can do more work at the top of building, where things move around a lot. The ball is not easily swayed.
‘A person should be flexible like the reed and not stiff like the cedar’ said Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon, back in the 2nd-3rd century. He was not a certified seismic designer, but he was the son of an uncompromising religious fundamentalist who was wanted dead by the Roman Empire authorities — they ended up living together as fugitives, father and son, in a cave for over a decade. This guy understood people and conflict.
The maritime expression ‘on even keel’‘ is a frequently used phrase to describe those who have the ability to be steady ( ‘level-headed’ ) in shaky situations, though if you ask a seaman, he’ll tell you that a more correct comparison to Damper Baby would be the nautical concept of ballast. Big ‘ol ballast, unlike bombast, is tangible and heavy… and like the ball, it is within.
Having this big, inner ball is not the same as being merely well-founded or well-grounded (though Taipei 101 is that too — it’s held up by piles that have been thrust some 262 feet deep into the earth). Nor is it about just going with the flow. There is some sway, but without getting carried away.
Of course, to paraphrase King Missile, sometimes it’s handy to have a detachable ball. The ball is good for those tough situations, but other times you may want to let loose, unchain yourself, ’cause otherwise that ‘ol ball is just going to hold you back and get in the way.
I may have to restrict comments on this post.