Prism Magazine - February 2002
Waging War
25 ways to Fight Terrorism
Where is OTA when you need it?
Cool Under Fire
Teaching Toolbox
ASEE Today
Web Extra
Back Issues


Twin Towers Collapse

The article on the World Trade Center in the December issue of ASEE Prism is very well written, but I really must comment on one of the statements.
“What would our great cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco look like without the mixture of short buildings, tall buildings, stadiums, and long-span bridges?”

In a word, they would look like Paris. In my humble opinion, that's not a bad alternative to the abysmal concrete canyons that are part and parcel of the skyscraper skyline.

In fairness to the author, I realize that he was trying to wrap
up a very concise description of the circumstances that caused the failure of the World Trade Center towers, but there is a beauty associated with limited building elevations that should not be categorically denigrated.

Otherwise, he wrote a very nice article and I appreciated reading it.

Larry D. Goss
Professor Emeritus, Engineering Technology
University of Southern Indiana

I wish to let you know that I enjoyed reading the article “Why They Fell” in the December 2001 issue of Prism.

Jin-Fu Chang
President, Professor, Electrical Engineering
National Chi Nan University

Regarding the article, “Why They Fell,” published in December, 2001, I am puzzled about the exterior steel columns. The writer says they were 14 square inches; I interpreted this to mean that they had a cross-sectional area of 14 square inches. Later, he says that the exterior tube was 14 inches thick. This leads me to believe that I misinterpreted his statement.

Thomas W. Weber
Professor Emeritus, Chemical Engineering
State University of New York at Buffalo

The author responds:

The cross-sections of the exterior columns were indeed square. The references that I used for the article, Engineering News Record (ENR), and “Multistory Buildings in Steel” by Hart, Henn, and Sontag, mention dimensions ranging from 14 x 14 inches to 17 x 17 inches. Given the fact that the article was not intended to be a forensic analysis of the collapse, I chose the smaller dimension. Of course, both of these numbers are approximate since they are second-hand (the structural drawings were not available).

The reader is right about the dimensions of the columns. The correct statement should read 14 inches square. This was an unfortunate transposition of words that mean two entirely different things.

Christopher M. Foley
Assistant Professor,
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Marquette University

More on Moses

More on Moses

Thank you so much for writing about the book and work of Robert Moses in “Moses and His Five Commandments” in the December 2001 issue. I read his book this summer and, while I found it didn't, as the reviewer said, have enough on the math stuff, I cannot get the book out of my mind. I think Moses is so right about knowledge of algebra being the equivalent of voting rights, and I think he is so right about the methods he is using.

I am chair of the department of engineering at a Hispanic-serving institution and I am certain that these same attitudes and teaching methods are what we should be using in our local area.

So, I thank you very much for calling the attention of ASEE readers to this book and these ideas.

Jane M. Fraser
Chair, Engineering
University of Southern Colorado


Realistic Distance Ed

Thanks for sending me the December 2001 Prism magazine with the “A Bumpy Road” article in it. You did a nice job capturing the issues. It's great to see a realistic article about distance education for a change. Most are still too optimistic.

Richard Hezel
President, Hezel Associates
Syracuse, N.Y.

ABET Revisited

In an October 2001 Prism article (“Under the Magnifying Glass”), Alvin Sanoff writes of some of the problems attendant on ABET certification. I would like to add my view with respect to this process. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), as its Web site makes clear, is an organization with two general purposes. On the one hand, it serves to accredit programs in engineering and technology. On the other hand, it has a mission to act as a driving force for innovation and improvement in engineering education. These are both worthy aims but they should not be pursued by the same organization. There is a conflict of interest between them.

ABET not only wants to improve engineering education but has a particular view of how the improvement should be achieved. Since the same organization has the right to decide whether a program is acceptable or not, it is clear that, in effect, it forces all of us to adopt the same view of how engineering education should be made better.

ABET believes that it knows how we should do our job and will make sure that we do it their way. While it is true that its ideas are very good (as well as fashionable), they are not the only good ideas. It is outrageous that an organization whose role is to accredit engineering programs should force us all into the same mold

A longer presentation of these ideas, including illustrative examples, is included in “Web Extra”.

Alwyn Eades
Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
Lehigh University

Bioinformatics Clarification

Phyllis Gardner was mistakenly identified in December's “Managing the Unmanagable” story as a Stanford dean. Dr. Gardner is the former senior dean of education and student affairs at Stanford University.