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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Those blasts are not 'implosions'

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

To the editor:

For several weeks the local media have vaunted the implosion of the old Mississippi River bridge. I have yet to witness any implosions. TV news has shown the explosive collapsing of the eastern bridge spans. But by definition, no implosion has occurred.

Physicist Andrew Chugg supplies this definition of "implosion": "An implosion is the opposite of an explosion: the blast converges inwards towards a point instead of traveling outwards from it. A spherical implosion can be used to crush a sphere ... so as to uniformly reduce its radius and therefore its surface area."

Please note the two criteria for an implosion: inward convergence and reduction of surface area. In the collapsing of the bridge spans, we have witnessed no convergences nor reduction of surface areas. Instead, the spans were felled from their anchoring positions on their piers. They simply fell down. "Implosion" is derived from a Latin prefix and a Latin root. "Im" literally means in or into. "Plosion" is derived from "plaudere," which means clap. Both physics and linguistics would indicate that if the bridge were to be imploded, we would expect to see it manifest actions other than merely falling downward.

Misapplying a word in a public venue sounds very much like Humpty Dumpty announcing to Alice that he can misuse a word in any manner he wishes, though Alice protests vehemently. I'm with Alice.

MICHAEL HOGAN, Cape Girardeau