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technical specs

  • Category :
  • technology
  • October 21st, 2005

    I am currently reading this book called Brunelleschi’s Dome. The book is a story about the construction of the dome in the cathedral commonly known as Duomo in Florence. The more I read it, the more I was amazed by the ingenuity that people came up with to achieved what seemingly difficult even today, given the simple and premative tools they have back then. Brunelleschi was what we’d call today the structural engineer of the project. With the official job title as the master carpenter, he is responsible for overseeing the construction of the project.

    Being a geek that I am, let me explain the problem space. The dome has a pointed semicircular shape (think of a really stift breast) that’s made of 8 different panels. To get a taller dome, the curvature of each panel is more gentle than such at the circumference of the base. The center of curvature therefore are 8 different point away from the center of the dome and slightly below the base of the dome. First he surveyed the center of the dome which spans 70 feet with just a couple of ropes and a lead weight. From that, he marked the position of every brick and constructured the base of the dome. Up till this day, no one clearly knows how he managed to find the center of curvature for each of the panels on an imaginery base with the tools that he has. It is assumed that with that a support extending the 130 feet radius of this imaginery circle is built. And as the support rotates, it serves as a guide for each and every brick in the panel. And all has to be done with the accuracy that they will meet at the top at the same point. An inch of error on the measurement of the center of curvature, or the length of the support would be magnified to more than 6 inches at the point where the six panels are supposed to meet.

    So that gave him a nice little problem to work with. And on top of that he is in charge of a crew of 100 stone masons, who are mostly illiterate at that time, who works on a daily pay schedule. Imagine the detail that his specification needs to get to. He has to go the length to allocate a 1/2 sq miles space so he can have life size sketches and guides everyday of the brick layouts so his stone masons can follow. This just amazes me the attention to detail one has to go through.

    Compared to the technical specs that I produce for my projects, it’s nights and days of a difference. It is true in general that the more you learn about a subject, the more you appreciate its complexity. Things like the dedicated power filter for an audio amplifier, the temperature regulator on Vivace’s coffee grinder, the sharp edge on the tourneau curve on the Omega Retrograde; all are results of people who pays great attention to detail to achieve near perfection in the work that they do.

    Entry Filed under: technology

    1 Comment Add your own

    • 1. useless thinkings »&hellip  |  December 7th, 2005 at 1:42 am

      [...] ptimal way to solve a problem. Which, interestingly is similar to what I discovered in my “tech spec” article on my blog. Yesterday I was at Barney’s getting a new suit (yes, for my $9/ [...]

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