Dick and Dom look at the world of monster bridges, from ancient Roman arches to a future where we may see bridges 3D-printed by robots.
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-Welcome to the genius world of...
Each show, we're going to introduce you to three geniuses...
..whose ideas have quite literally built the world.
We put all their epic brilliance to the test...
Hit it, hit it!
..when we tackle our own genius Monster Build.
Don't you dare demolish this!
Why is it swinging?
..all in the name of science.
That is a massive piece of construction.
What could possibly go wrong?
On today's show, we're going up...
It's unbelievably fast!
-Come on! Run!
..as we uncover the secrets of epic bridges.
-Look at that. It really is a Monster Build, that, isn't it, eh?
Here's a question for you. How do you get millions of people
from the city over there to the other side of the bay?
-What? No, there's sharks!
-Don't be ridiculous!
-Who is she?
-No, BRIDGE it!
Oh, bridge it. Yes, I see.
This is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
And today's show is all about, you guessed it...
People have always needed to get from A to B,
but sometimes, there's a big problem...
This is a big problem.
..which forces engineers to get thinking.
-And the simplest solution, build a bridge.
They are a brilliant fix whenever nature gets in our way.
-Ooh, that's got it.
-As we've become smarter, bridges have become longer,
taller and stronger.
Today, there is almost no gap too big to span.
But let's rewind the clock.
When it came to genius feats of engineering,
the Ancient Romans were hard to beat.
From amphitheatres to aqueducts,
they knew a thing or two about building stuff that lasts.
We've come to the south of France to see one of the biggest
and most impressive examples of Roman engineering in the world.
Yeah, it's such a popular tourist attraction,
that it's even found its way onto the back of a five euro note.
Pretty good, eh? Have a look. It's amazing.
-This is the Pont du Gard.
-The bridge over the River Gard.
The Pont du Gard has stood in this valley
since the first century AD.
It survived everything, from floods to gale-force winds,
and today, it's one of France's most famous landmarks.
And there's only one way to visit
this "magnifique" bit of construction.
-See you later.
-It's not a gondola.
# Just one Cornetto... #
It's not a gondola.
Dom, just sit down.
It's even more impressive from this angle.
And if it wasn't for our first genius's massive brain,
the secrets to the strength of the Pont du Gard would have been lost.
Introducing author, architect, engineer
and all-round Roman boffin,
You've got my beard all wet.
Yeah, but you've got a dry moustache.
Genius helper Alejandro Mendez Graf
has arranged access-all-areas to this Roman marvel.
-Hi, Alejandro. How you doing?
-Nice to see you.
It'd be great to have a look around the bridge.
And we're starting, where else, but right at the very top.
Almost 50 metres above the valley floor.
Alejandro, it's in really good nick, this place,
but how many years old is it?
-It's 2,000 years old.
-What was it built for, though?
This aqueduct was built to have running water in the city of Nimes.
So this whole construction was made
to get water from that side of the river
all the way through this... I suppose you'd call it a tunnel,
over to the other side, so people there could get fresh water?
The Pont du Gard's three layers of arches aren't just for show.
This was the only way that the Romans
could build high enough to keep the pipe carrying their fresh water
level with the surrounding hills.
We are inside the pipe.
You have to imagine this place with water coming almost up to the roof.
Is this tunnel all watertight?
This tunnel is watertight, thanks to the mortar
which was on the walls here.
The Romans invented a super-strong mortar,
made from crushed volcanic rock.
When added to the walls of the pipe we've just seen,
it stuck the stones together and stopped the water leaking out.
Clever, but they didn't use it all over the bridge,
as we are about to discover.
So, obviously, it's been well put-together.
How is it actually constructed?
The stones which are the building,
our stones are coming from a quarry at about 600 metres just downriver.
They were transported up to here.
All the big stones are held together without mortar.
So there's no sand and cement, no bonding at all.
Not at all, and mainly,
that concerns the first and second level.
Amazing! But also very strange.
After all, this massive stone bridge weighs over 50,000 tonnes!
So we understand that the top of the bridge, the aqueduct,
is held together with mortar,
but what about the rest of the bridge?
How does it stay up? What's sticking the bricks together?
There's only one way to find out.
-Our scientist friend...
..who can explain things in a way that even we can understand.
She loves a good experiment.
-And best of all, she pops up...
-..whenever we need her.
Franny, everybody! Eh?
Franny, we need your help!
The Pont du Gard was beautiful.
But the bottom part of it was stuck together with nothing,
-not a saucisson!
You think it was stuck together with nothing?
Well, in fact, it's stuck together with friction.
-Yeah, but friction slows moving objects down.
It does, but friction can also stick objects together
and stop them from moving completely.
I want to show you with this stuff.
Right, so what are you going to do, cook us a curry?
-I've got a little bit of a challenge for you.
I want to see how much of this rice you can pick up
-just using this stick.
-Give it a try.
-Go on. Challenge.
-Just in different ways...
-See how much rice you can pick up.
-How much rice have you got?
No, no, no!
-Give up. Silly experiment!
Fran, why you not use pasta?
What if I told you that using friction,
we could pick up the whole of this jar of rice.
Not possible - you can't use that stick to pick up all that rice.
-Well, we'll see.
-So, Dick, take this.
Just jab the stick in a few times. Just try it.
-Just jab it in.
And lift it out and then put it in.
And each time you are doing that,
it's jiggling the rice about in such a way
that more and more rice is touching the stick,
and, eventually, there'll be enough rice touching the stick
for the friction between them to be enough
to lift up the whole of the jar.
-I say no.
Lift it. Lift it right out.
So you've got to lift it right out
and then put it right in
and then lift it out
and then put it in.
Oh, oh, go on! Go on!
THEY CHEER AND LAUGH
Oh, look at that! Friction!
FRAN SCREAMS, DICK GROANS
Mamma mia, you make a big mess!
But how does that relate to stones holding together a bridge?
What the Roman engineers did,
they cut the stones really precisely so they fitted perfectly together
and that meant there was a lot of them touching each other
and touching means more friction, which means the friction was enough
to hold the bridge up without mortar.
And the technique is called opus quadratum.
-BOTH: Told you!
-And the reason we know about it
is because of the writings of Vitruvius.
Now we understand how it was made,
the Pont du Gard is even more spectacular.
It's amazing to think that, 2,000 years later,
that bridge is still standing,
thanks to the genius way it was built.
And if it wasn't for this man,
we wouldn't know how the Romans built it.
Vitruvius, you are a rock-solid genius.
Oh, yeah, boys! You can't knock me down!
After the Romans,
things went a bit quiet in the world of bridge building.
In fact, they went A LOT quiet for nearly 2,000 years!
But from the late 1700s,
engineers had cast iron and then steel at their disposal.
These new materials set off a golden age of bridge building.
And nowhere went bigger on bridges than New York.
That's the Brooklyn Bridge, crossing the East river,
linking Manhattan to Brooklyn.
Yeah, it's a suspension bridge
and when it was first built in the late 1800s,
it was the longest of its type in the world.
But without our next genius,
that incredible structure would never have been built.
Well, who is it? Don't leave me hanging!
That's exactly what we're doing.
Introducing to you, the man who created twisted steel cable...
-Twisted steel cable?
-it's the thing we're going to fly down in a minute at 100mph.
Happy flightings, Dick und Dom!
Stop that. That's silly.
We'll come back to that terrifying moment later.
Wilhelm Albert was in charge of a German mine.
He was fed up by the number of accidents caused
when the iron link chains, used to haul heavy loads, snapped.
His genius idea -
a much stronger twisted steel cable, originally known as Albert Rope.
Today, Albert's invention can be found
on many of the world's most famous bridges,
even ones that are still being constructed.
-Look at that. It really is a Monster Build, that, isn't it?
This is the Queensferry Crossing,
a new road bridge currently being built
over the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh.
When it opens, this 2.7km span
will be the longest three-towered cable-stayed bridge
in the entire world.
That is a MASSIVE piece of construction.
We've been given special permission to visit the deck
where the road will be built once the bridge is finished.
Wouldn't want his job! Look at him.
Look at him up there, look at his job.
He's just dangling!
Right. Goodbye, everyone.
The deck is suspended 55 metres above the water.
That's about the height of 11 double-decker buses.
This is the THIRD bridge to cross the FORTH Estuary...
Get it? ..joining the incredible 19th-century rail bridge
and the 1960s road bridge.
This project is too mammoth for just one genius helper, so we've got two.
Gerard Kiely and Ralph Hildebrand!
So, the cables on this bridge, what are they used for?
So, what we're standing on right now is the road deck of the bridge
and the cars will be driving across here in a couple of months' time.
-So, to stop the cars falling into the river,
these cables stop the deck and they keep it floating in the air.
How much weight will these cables be taking?
In total, all of the bridge deck is going to be close to 100,000 tonnes.
-That's like 50,000 two-tonne cars.
-And it's all thanks to the genius way
that these cables are constructed, right?
Correct. On each strand, what we have here,
we have seven wires.
We have one wire in the middle and you have six wires bent around
and they are holding a lot of force together. Yeah?
So in each one of the stay cables, we have between 55 and 109 pieces.
35,000 miles of strength inside, so they can take a lot of load.
But if that was just one central wire,
and all the other wires around it were just running straight along,
it wouldn't be able to carry as much weight, right?
It's the fact that they are twisted,
that enables to take the massive amount of weight.
-And this is all down to Wilhelm Albert's genius?
Without him, there wouldn't be a bridge like this?
Exactly. Without him, it would not exist.
Suspension and cable-stayed bridges, like the one we've just seen,
can safely carry massive loads over big gaps.
Whilst vertical forces run up and down the towers,
Wilhelm Albert's twisted steel cables are being stretched
between the deck and tower, creating a rigid structure.
That means the roadway which carries vehicles
is locked securely in place.
-There's no denying Albert's genius, but what better...
..way to put his invention to the test than this -
a mile-long zip wire, suspended more than 150 metres above a quarry?!
It's unbelievably fast!
Oh, isn't he brave?! I'm fine, though,
because this stuff is strong enough
to hold up to 100,000 tonnes of bridge, remember!
Oh, wow, ow!
What?! DOM LAUGHS
-That was amazing!
-Not doing it again.
-It was brilliant!
-It was fast.
-It's like you're flying.
-Just fast. I just remember it being fast.
Just to think that twisted steel cable was the one thing
that was responsible for you not dropping.
All day my lovely cable will keep you in the air!
Up to the top again. Come on!
-We are put through our paces...
Oh, it's hard work, this.
..in a military Monster Build.
Push it, push it.
But now it's time for some...
This London Bridge isn't falling down.
In fact, it's gently unrolling.
Thanks to nifty hydraulics,
this link across the Grand Union Canal
can be rolled and unrolled to allow boats to pass.
This suspension bridge in China
is paved with 99 panes of extra-thick glass.
It's 300 metres above the ground, so, in case of emergency...
..definitely don't break here!
It looks like something you'd see at a funfair,
but this is the Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough.
This moving gondola can carry up to 200 people, or 9 cars.
Scream if you want to go faster!
We've seen how genius ideas from the past
have helped create some truly breathtaking bridges.
That's the past, but what about the future?
Well, let's meet our next genius.
Mr Chuck Hull.
Hey, how you doing, boys?
-Yes, very well, thank you.
-Yes, thank you very much, very nice.
Back in the 1980s, Charles "Chuck" Hull
was working for a company that put thin plastic coverings on furniture.
In a spark of genius,
Chuck tried putting thousands of thin layers of plastic
on top of each other, before using light to etch the blocks
into simple three-dimensional shapes.
Mmm! Smells ready!
3-D printing was born and now, over 30 years later,
it's beginning to revolutionise the way we build.
The Dutch city of Amsterdam is famous for its canals
and is already home to over 1,000 bridges.
Look, there's one. See, told you!
Beginning to take shape in this warehouse behind us
is one of the newest and strangest of the lot.
Welcome to the home of the world's first-ever 3-D printed bridge.
-What? 3-D printed bridge?
-What is it?
To find out more, we're meeting Tim Geurtjens.
He works for the company who are making the bridge.
-Tim, hi. Lovely to meet you.
Could you tell us what 3D printing is?
How is this machine working behind us?
We have a robotic arm which can move freely in the air
and it squeezes out a little bit of molten metal at the same time.
It's almost like drawing in midair. You can just draw lines in the air.
It can move any direction - left, right, up, down?
And so it ejects layers and layers and layers of liquid metal
into any shape that you programme on a computer?
Tim and his robots have even managed to 3D print a bike frame.
So that whole frame is 3D printed?
-It is completely 3-D printed, out of stainless steel.
-Right, can I have a ride?
-Sure. Give it a go.
-Oh, it's pretty heavy!
-Is it heavy?
-No, no brakes. No, we couldn't print those.
-Let's see what happens.
-So, what are you going to do?
-You've never ridden it before!
-My legs are too short!
-Look at that.
-It's going very well.
-Solid as a rock.
# I like to ride my bicycle! #
-BIKE BELL RINGS
I mean, it's like any other bike.
Is it? Works a treat!
-There's no brakes!
But it's bridges we are interested in, not bikes.
Of course, your big project is building a bridge.
-How do you go about that?
-Well, I mean, obviously,
the robot is not big enough to build a full bridge.
So when the robot goes out of reach,
we just move the robot a little bit further,
and then we continue printing.
So by doing that, we can print... unlimited in size, almost.
So, this is a bridge that we printed before.
It's a miniature version of the bridge we're going to print.
It doesn't look strong enough to be able to take the weight of a person.
-Yeah, sure, sure, sure. Be my guest.
-It's really sturdy!
-Is it not bending under your feet?
-No, it's perfect.
-Can two of us go on it?
-Sure. Yeah, you can...
-Oh, it's fine. It's really bizarre.
It looks really thin and flimsy, but it's actually as strong as anything.
-You can even jump up and down on it.
-Don't do that!
So, what are the ambitions for this?
This is a small bridge. What about the big one?
Well, the big one is going to be, obviously, a lot bigger,
it will be about eight metres.
It's going to be able to support bicycles, pedestrians.
In the future, do you think we'd see 3-D printed bridges
spanning big rivers? You can put lorries on there and cars?
Yeah, I mean, yeah, as I said,
it's just as strong as any other stainless steel,
so you could print it, theoretically, as big as you want.
We think your imagination should be your only limitation,
so, with 3-D printing, you can print anything.
The full-size bridge is still a work in progress,
but when it's finished,
it will span a canal in central Amsterdam.
It's been a real eye-opener, looking at the future of bridge building.
And none of this would have been possible
without the 3D mind of Chuck Hull.
Shucks, you're making me blush!
-A 3-D printed...
Thanks to the three geniuses we've met in this show...
That is a MASSIVE piece of construction.
..bridging gaps that WERE impossible...
Look at it! Wow!
..now feel like a hop and a step.
It's time for our Genius Monster Build Challenge.
And we're joining forces with the real deal.
The British Army's Royal Engineers.
Engineers have played an important role in armies
ever since Roman times, and the Royal Engineers
have been a key part of the British Army for 300 years.
We've come to the home of
3 Royal School of Military Engineering in Surrey.
2,000 soldiers are trained here every year
and they use their skills all over the world. We'd better behave,
because we're under the command of Captain Luke Parker.
-Captain Parker, sir!
What exactly do engineers do in the Army?
The engineers allow the Army to live, to move and to fight.
They learn how to build bridges, create obstacles, breach minefields.
You mentioned bridges.
What kind of conditions would they have to build a bridge under?
In almost any conceivable conditions.
What? I take it they're not exactly light, these bridges, as well?
No, the bridges are extremely heavy and it takes a soldier
ten weeks to learn how to build all these bridges.
-We haven't got that long.
-You've not got that long.
However, what we do have is a lake that needs crossing.
We've got a bridge that needs building and not much time to do it.
-To the bridge!
-To this bridge build.
Get ready for Team Dick versus Team Dom
in a frantic race to cross a lake.
Working alongside a highly trained team of Royal Engineers,
we must each build a 22 metre-long footbridge.
The first team to finish their bridge and use it
to move a casualty on a stretcher
from one bank of the lake to the other
will be crowned the winners.
Hooray, I've won!
There's just time for a few last-minute preparations.
We certainly look the part...
..but will we be able to act it?
A friendly callsign has been in contact with the enemy
across the other side of the river.
We have been tasked to retrieve the casualties across the river
using the infantry assault bridge
and extract them to the casualty post.
The team that gets their casualty to the Land Rover first wins!
'And we're off!'
Right, here we go! Faster!
This infantry assault bridge is a favourite of the British Army.
Its brilliantly simple design
means it can be built and dismantled quickly in virtually any conditions.
Go, go, go, go, go!
Cor, it's heavy!
Come on, sweaty, put your back into it!
SOLDIERS SHOUT My legs!
Get the next piece! Dick! Next piece!
All right! It's hard work, this.
Each of these aluminium bridge sections
is around four and a half metres long and weighs 55kg.
I don't know if this can last, though.
My legs are starting to give way.
-It's neck and neck.
-Come on, Dom!
No slacking, Dominici, keep going.
I could never be in the Army.
It's not for me. I'll stick with TV!
The joined-up sections are pushed out across the water
and rested on floats.
We're halfway across and Team Dom have opened up a small lead!
BREATHLESSLY: We've got one more piece there.
Nice work, team.
Final piece, final piece.
Dom is still in front, but McCourt's no quitter!
Good! Next piece, next piece!
Come on, they're catching up. Come on!
This is where we test out how strong the bridge actually is.
The completed bridge weighs a hefty 278kg,
which is nearly 2,000 ham sandwiches with the crusts on.
-A stretcher can now be slotted on to the handrails
to allow our casualty to be moved safely across.
My team are first to try out a finished bridge.
It's wobbly. Oh, it's wobbly!
I'm off. 'I'll have to give it everything to get back in the race.'
Three, two, one, go!
Now for the real test.
That really is a real soldier on the stretcher!
-Come on, McCourt! Run!
Coming! We're coming!
-Push it, push it(!)
We're on the home straight -
a 20-metre dash to a waiting four by four.
And now there's clear daylight between us and Team Dick.
We did it, everyone!
It's victory for Team Dom!
I'm absolutely done.
We've lost, we've lost!
We nearly lost the casualty!
Tell you what, that is the fastest bit of bridge building
I've ever seen.
Literally from pieces of bridge to a whole bridge
that can take the weight of about three or four people,
all in a few minutes.
Now, THAT was a Monster Build.
Right, you can get up now, Jay, come on.
The bridges might be built
but the Royal Engineers haven't finished with us quite yet.
Congratulations, Wood. You got your casualty across first.
McCourt, unfortunately, your team came last,
so they will be a forfeit for you. Dom, your team is dismissed.
-Off you go.
-Everyone, all the teams are dismissed!
McCourt, for you, it's 20 of your finest press-ups.
-I can't do press-ups!
-Let's go, stop whingeing
-and let's get them done. Come on.
-I can only do four.
Let's go. One. All the way down! Come on, McCourt. Let's go.
-Two. Come on, McCourt. I want more effort than that.
Let's go. Come on. McCourt, my mum can do better press-ups than that!
Ohhh... Can we go home now?
So, thank you to our three geniuses for some truly epic bridges.
Vitruvius, Albert, Hull, you are all Absolute Genius.
We salute you.
My idea was the best.
No, mine was.
You've got to be kidding! It was mine!
He's loving it!
I hate this!
Dick and Dom turn their attention to the incredible world of monster bridges, tracing the genius ideas that have taken us from ancient Roman arches to elegant cable-stayed suspension spans, to a future where we may see bridges 3D-printed by robots. In their challenge, the boys join the Royal Engineers for an army bridge-build race... complete with a severe dressing-down for the loser.