graphic graphic

Dr Allan McRobie


Next year Allan is introducing a new fourth year undergraduate module on water engineering and public health, which will look at global issues concerned with river modelling, flooding, water supply and sanitation. 'This Millennium Bridge is a wonderful structure and a fascinating problem. The way that crowds walking on this bridge synchronize their steps involves biology and psychology as well as nonlinear structural dynamics. There are useful mathematical analogues for this phenomenon across the biological and physical sciences: synchronous flashing of fireflies in SE Asia, Josephson junction arrays, pendulum clocks, the moon, menstrual synchrony, to name but a few. I can talk about this for hours. The much-studied mathematics of these other problems suggests to me that the bridge wobbles may be rather tricky to fix, and I wish the engineers involved every success. But fascinating though all this is, ultimately I would rather spend the rest of this summer working on subjects like water engineering where the bottom line is 18 million lives rather than 18 million pounds. And, again, I think Joan can help me.'

Allan's final comment on the bridge is this: 'It may be just a footbridge, but we should NEVER forget that with several thousand people suspended at any instant out above the Thames, if some unforeseen phenomenon had actually led to a collapse of the bridge, then we would have witnessed the most terrible national tragedy since the Second World War.'