So, the first day of cib 2004 in Toronto. The hotel is pretty good and luckily it has a wireless network, as the conference itself hasn't got a single PC hooked up to the Internet. It's a pretty expensive conference and a pretty expensive-looking conference center, so you'd expect them to have gotten out of the technological stone age. Not one Internet pc... amateurish.
Well, the wireless connection at the hotel is pretty bad. Half of the time I don't have a connection. But, thanks to Henk at the university who bought a wireless card for this laptop, I can at least check my email and post something to the web.
Ok, on to the conference. Keynotes
This morning we had the usual keynote speakers. Two of them were nice to listen to. The Ontario minister of infrastructure had a nice view in the political/technical kitchen. The second good one was Oral Buyukozturk who gave an overview of high-rise buildings (skyscrapers). Apparently enough of the structural engineering part of my civil engineering study has been preserved, as I understood his entire talk :-)
One thing that had a big impact on the field, of course, was the wtc attack. At MIT they've done some initial finite-element-like studies on the actual impact. A boeing crashing into a building does so with a large amount of kinetic energy, which has to be absorbed. Their estimation at the moment is that the exterior columns took only 3% off of the energy. They were slashed through cleanly, both by the fuselage and by the wings. The core of the building took 28%, the aircraft deformation 25% and the floor structure 53%.
The WTC had actually excellent "system redundancy". With half the columns on one side ripped through, the other columns took over that load without any problems. The building stayed upright for a few hours!
The problem was in the "local redundancy", especially the connection between the floors and the columns. There the fire took out the relatively small supports, which didn't have any backup. So one floor came down, then the next, etc, until one floor couldn't take the weight of the floors now resting upon him and went down immediately. That was the point at which everything went down.
In the afternoon Peter Barrett delivered a good talk on the unanticipated impacts of research on practice. It is part of a series of "disruptive studies" which aim to question commonly held beliefs that might use a shake-up. In this particular case it considered the transfer of knowledge from research to industry. The idea was that it might well be a tacit process instead of the commonly supposed explicit process.
They did a bit of social network research and snowballing research (a snowball that grows: A tells B, B tells C and D, C tells E and F, etc). A couple of results (I didn't have time to write them all down):
Explicit transfers of knowledge have a begin, an end and a tangible medium (like an article in the trade press).
Tacit transfers is more like you "catch" something. Virus-like. Air-borne instead of paper-born. Socially contagious.
When something jumps tacitly from one person to the next, normally say 50% of the message gets lost or garbled. The next jump 25% is retained. After 4 jumps you only have 6.25% of the message left. Bad? No, actually. The assumption is that it has spread to a reasonably large amount of people. Who probably got passed the part of the original message that was more or less useful to them. you should not mind that some technical details didn't make it through the process. At least not if you wouldn't have reached that audience with your techically correct paper-based message anyway :-)
My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.
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