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Using expert testimonies from scientific investigators, Wearne studies eleven high-profile cases of catastrophic structural collapse, from The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City and the Hartford Civic Center in Connecticut, to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Sometimes, if these disasters have a single cause, it is a small flaw that spawns a chain reaction -- for instance, the miniscule flaw in the metal of one eyebar of the Point Pleasant Bridge on the Ohio River. Usually, though, and more alarmingly, the causes are human. Mistakes, misunderstandings, incompetence, greed, and corruption: every facet of human failing is represented in these structural collapses.
This makes the investigation of these failures -- by agencies like the Failure Analysis Associates, who can have close to two thousand investigations ongoing at any one time -- dirty and dangerous business. Wearne's case study takes us deep inside the ever-growing industry of forensic engineering, revealing a group of professionals dedicated to determining the cause of a collapse at any cost, while learning and applying valuable lessons from each failure.
Provocative and well-written, Collapse is essential for deepening our understanding of -- and readiness for -- catastrophe.
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