Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trip to Taiwan Take Six - some final thoughts


There wasn’t much time left or stuff to do by the time we got back to Taipei from our Hualien trip. It was still daylight so we decided to go have a look at the Tuned Mass Damper that keeps Taipei 101 from falling over in a big wind. And big winds here are problem as the city lies on the Typhoon Track from the East Pacific to coastal China.

The Damper was designed by a guy in Ben’s graduating class so it had a small personal connection. I was just beginning to feel the effects of the bad dumplings and that feeling had been worsened by the back and forth nature of the high speed train. But I am nothing if not a trooper so I got on the World’s Fastest Elevator and took the 40 second ride to the 91st floor.

The view in the late afternoon was nothing compared to what we had seen during dinner earlier on our trip. It was a bit cloudy off to the west and so even the sunset was muted. I wandered around the observation deck, checking out the four cardinal points before going in and having a look at what we had come to see. I passed a sign advertising a “Beer Float” - a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a 1 liter Taiwan Beer - and kept right on walking.

The Tuned Mass Damper is a 730 ton alloy sphere suspended in the upper reaches of the building. It hangs there silently, imposingly so, waiting to go to work in a high wind or a big earthquake. There is a bad video on Youtube showing the ball doing its work during the aftershocks from 2008 Sichuan quake. It’s an amazing thing to watch something that big swing around and around.

Of course there are mascots – Damper Babies – who welcome you to the room. You walk down two flights of stairs and you can look straight at it which affords you a better idea of how the thing works. It’s attached to the floor below the 89th by a series of shock absorbers. When the build tilts left, the ball naturally goes right and when it does it presses down on the shock absorbers and pushes the building back to its normal position. Pretty clever, and despite the ear popping elevator ride and the gantlet of retail you had to pass to leave, it was a nice topper to a great weekend. I can say that if I ever choose to cross the International Dateline heading west again, it will be on the way here. It’s a place worth seeing again.




Click on this picture to see the animation.








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