In the modern world, men and women head to work in bustling metropolises and move between cities at breakneck speed. Nearly all the technological marvels that grace our twentieth-century planet are due to the skills, experience, and far-reaching ambitions of engineers. By examining a few of the greatest structures ever built, most people will quickly come to realize how much the field of engineering has done for humanity. Here are five structures that prove that modern engineers are, without doubt, real life MacGuyvers.
1) Chunnel between England and France
Any discussion of awesome feats of engineering must begin with the Channel Tunnel between the countries of England and France. The English Channel itself was estimated to be hundreds of feet deep and posed several difficulties. The ebb and flow of the tides through the channel exert considerable amounts of stress on the pillars of the tunnel, but engineers have found a way to ensure the safety of all passengers and freight. Though the English Channel for many hundreds of years was a natural boundary between the warring armies of England and France, the water is now a highway of communication between the British Isles and mainland Europe.
2) Golden Gate Bridge
This bridge connects the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. Painted a wonderful shade of red and meant to forever bring together the two urban areas on each end, this suspension bridge is a modern feat of engineering. The engineers who originally built the structure had to concern themselves not only with considerable tides but also with the ship traffic that moved up and down the harbor on a regular basis. Visitors to northern California should ensure that they make the Golden Gate Bridge one of the first stops on their tour of the region.
3) High-Speed Bullet Trains
Bullet trains, though a recent innovation, are fascinating for the mere reason that they allow people to travel huge distances at high rates of speed. These trains, which have been engineered to perfection, run on carefully calibrated tracks that have been set down between certain urban centers. Though not yet available in the United States, bullet trains are highly visible in Japan, China, and some European countries. They provide an alternative to air travel and are set to spring up in many more places around the world in the coming decades.
4) Appalachian Mountain Tunnels
When it comes to impressive feats of engineering, the various highway tunnels that have been crafted through the ridges of the central Appalachians are marvels that should be given their due praise. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is a toll road that runs the length of the state, features four such tunnels. A few of these are more than a mile long. The stabilizers that have been placed inside these tunnels allow highway traffic to zip through the mountains as if nothing were there. The cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are thus ably connected in this manner.
5) Martian Rovers
No list of engineering wonders would be complete without some discussion of NASA. The rovers that have been sent to Mars in recent years have been pieced together with metal, electrical equipment, and minuscule circuit boards. With some solar panels along for the ride, these rovers have all they need to perform valuable scientific experiments many millions of miles from home. In this, the engineers have truly outdone themselves.
In the end, engineers work in a world in which they are expected to act like MacGuyver at the drop of a hat. Whether they are working on bridges, tunnels, trains, or space rovers, they can always be counted on to come through. The future will surely see these professional men and women working on even more extraordinary projects.
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Rusty Parker is a structural engineer and guest author at Best Online Engineering Degree, where he contributed to the guide to the Best Online Masters in Engineering Management.