Boats traversing the Panama Canal look strange and out of place, like mirages or optical illusions. That’s because the Canal — especially at places like the Culebra Cut — goes right through what would otherwise be continuous land. The Canal is, in essence, a trench. It was dug right across the width of Panama in order to connect two oceans: Pacific and Atlantic. Ships going through the Panama Canal, therefore, are strange-goers, undertaking a journey that would be fantastical but for feats of engineering that still boggle the mind. 

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative… More…

What is it about autumn and the dedication of major engineering projects in the American Southwest? Seventy-five years ago, on September 30, 1935, Franklin Roosevelt traveled to the Colorado River just south of Las Vegas to dedicate the Boulder Dam, better known as the Hoover Dam. On October 16, 2010, dignitaries and public spectators will gather 1,500 feet downstream to dedicate the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, better known as the Hoover Dam Bypass.

Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik. 512 pages. Free Press. $30.

The Bypass dedication ceremony is going by the name Bridging America. Its website warns attendees to expect high temperatures, dry and windy weather, little shade, minimal refreshments, long waits, and “walking on dirt.” One hopes that with such adverse conditions, spectators don’t fail to note the irony of marking the 75th anniversary of an engineering… More…

 

When word of possible financial catastrophe came out of Dubai last week, the media scrambled for the most highly visual examples of the emirate’s opulence it could find. Luckily, these images were not in short supply. The world has watched for years, transfixed, as a golden Dubai exploded up into the sky and out beyond its natural land. As it built a ski mountain…in the desert!

It’s no surprise, then, that television viewers listened to reporters speak over images of the Burj Dubai, at 2,684 feet the tallest structure in the world. They saw aerial shots of the man-made Palm Islands that extended Dubai out into the Persian Gulf. And they watched footage of people happily cruising the slopes of Ski Dubai. The pairing of these images with news that Dubai’s government-owned investment company wanted to delay payments… More…