Bridge of Your Nose
(click to enlarge)
Interstate communication
Laying the cables
Ready for traffic
Ten seconds before the sneeze

Tape can be transformed into a spatial pencil - a quick way to draw lines in mid-air and an easy way to explain 3 dimensional phenomena in the classroom.

One day I found myself holding a roll of masking tape surrounded by an anxious group of 12-year-old intellectuals expecting me to raise their environmental consciousness. Although I had no idea what I was going to do, I had enough confidence in my masking tape as an instant idea generator not to sweat it too much.

I unraveled the tape as far as my arm could reach and accidentally hit a kid's nose. Apologizing politely, I stuck it right there. I followed that impulse by tearing off the other end and sticking it to another nose. After the laughter subsided, I explained that the natural curve of the tape hanging between the two noses was called a catinary and asked in what kind of structure they'd seen it before. Somebody shouted out "the George Washington Bridge!" And we proceeded to build the 'Bridge of Your Nose' with tape, figuring out step by step, the sequence of construction and learning how a suspension bridge works.

Two more anchor towers were recruited because, with only one cable, the bridge would allow only a small select group of Hackensack tight-rope walkers to commute to Manhattan. This enabled us to support a paper roadway by hanging tape vertically from the catinary cable, connecting them to two horizontal tape beams that the anchor tower people were holding at waist level and spanning those with more tape until we could lay the paper across.

The fragile and sticky nature of the material forced us all to cooperate because if the the anchor noses moved, the structure would pull apart. I explained that, according to Newton, the equilibrium of the whole mess depended on everyone staying still or static. If they didn't feel like staying still, they'd all have to move together at the same speed and in the same direction.

Even though it was hard for the anchor towers to keep from fidgeting and even harder for the construction workers to avoid getting stuck on the gummy tape, the George Washington Bridge of Your Nose opened for teddy bear traffic, ready for a lesson about interstate commerce. But before that could happen, somebody sneezed. So instead, we learned about how the Tacoma Bridge was destroyed by sympathetic oscillating frequencies caused by strong winds. Fortunately, before the disaster, we took these photos to show you how it was done.

Growing Places