Modelling our catchments: A historical American perspective on physical modelling
“When I start a new project, I go and I rent a kayak and I float the river…because I want to touch the river. I want to see the things I’m not seeing so that when I get back and set up my model, I understand how the world works.”
Instead of a reading group this catch up will revolve around a recently aired episode of the Podcast 99% Invisible ( http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/americas-last-top-model/ ). 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. With 80 million downloads, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.
This episode ‘America’s last top model’ explores how the 1927 Mississippi River flood empowered the US Army Corps of Engineers to study and alter the nation’s river systems. This effort resulted in the construction of a model that could test all 1.25 million square miles of the Mississippi River. A three-dimensional map of nearly half of the continental United States, rendered to a 1/2000 horizontal scale, spanning more than 200 acres. It was so big that the only way to see all of it at once was from a four-story observation tower.
The model successfully predicted flooding impacts, which resulted in saving the Government millions of dollars in flood damage. By the early 1990’s the model was closed as industry migrated toward computer modelling. However as the Podcast discusses, physical modelling has note disappeared, with US efforts in physical modelling continuing albeit at a smaller scale.
Have a listen to the Podcast and when we get together let us know your perspective; are you aware of physical modelling in your region informing management? Is there a space for increased physical modelling in Australia?
Available on the 99% Invisible website are a range of related media worth checking out, it can be found at: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/americas-last-top-model/