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Department of Engineering

Best scientific programme, 2002

Best scientific programme, 2002

The TV show: "Why did the Millennium Bridge Wobble" by Screenhouse Productions has been awarded the VEGA prize for the best in scientific broadcasting, for 2002.

The ideas and final methods aimed at overcoming the problems using hydraulic dampers are nicely explained and overall the programme presents an excellent example of how to understand a real technical problem and find a practical solution.

Judges comment

This programme, the subject and approach to which was suggested by Allan McRobie from the Cambridge University Engineering Department, was part of the Science Shack Series for BBC2. Allan who played a starring role along with Joan Lasenby (CUED) and the slightly more famous Adam Hart Davis, is delighted with the programme's success. Asked to comment on the award he said (in true Hollywood style): "I would like to thank my mother...".

This show demonstrated in an entertaining way how the flexible dynamic characteristics of the Millennium Bridge across the Thames caused people to walk in step, building up sideways forces into a high amplitude wobble which made further movement almost impossible. The bridge dynamics are modelled with a test rig holding several people and the motion reproduced on a small scale. The experiment showed how resonances can generate complex wild vibrations from the movement of a small number of walkers and the way the walkers' further efforts to keep upright cause even wilder motions.

Judges comment, "The ideas and final methods aimed at overcoming the problems using hydraulic dampers are nicely explained and overall the programme presents an excellent example of how to understand a real technical problem and find a practical solution."

For more details of the award, visit the Vega Awards site.