Originally Posted by imageWIS
The Empire State is
in terms of looks, I merely marvel at the engineering involved in doing all the math by hand. The Chrysler building on the other hand looks amazing, especially when you see its glimmering top shining on a sunny day.
Not to rain on anyone's parade, but doing the math for a skyscraper built like either the Empire state building or the Chrysler building isn't all that impressive. They're not very complicated in terms of structural design, basically big tall steel beams with cross beams. The numbers involved are big, but the calculations aren't complicated. It's really just basic statics. Determining material requirements is pretty introductory in an engineering curriculum too.
Not to mention the factor of safety- usually pretty high in civil engineering projects, and undoubtedly higher back then.
Modern skyscrapers have gotten very, very complicated with all sorts of bells and whistles, but the empire state building and such really wouldn't have been all that difficult to design. You take previous skyscraper designs, scale them up, and adjust the size of the steel beams as appropriate.
Now planes- a little different. The Blackbird is absolutely nuts. Critical moving parts (elevators don't count) make things much more difficult. Weight matters, airflow matters, and thanks to the speed that thing travels at, thermal expansion of your parts matters. Simply insane what went into that plane.
Oh, another engineering tidbit: modern jet engines run at temperatures higher than the melting points of many of their main components, but the parts are grooved and airflow channeled so that while the engine is running hot enough to melt everything in it, the parts are being instantaneously cooled by the airflow.
I tried to be an aeronautical engineer. I learned enough to know where my knowledge stops before flipping majors. There's some pretty damn impressive stuff out there, but you have to remember it's more about incremental progress than great leaps forward.