Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more


Eann introduces the concepts found in week 3.
Last week we talked about bridges and shells. We used a Platonic cube to introduce the concept of internal forces within a structure and principal stresses acting on the face of the cube. And, then we extended the concept to analyse the stress in thin-­walled shells before jumping in a new direction to talk about strain energy. This week we are going to discuss the bending of natural structures, like grasses and trees, as well as man-made structures, such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai or the Brighton Tower. Once again, we’ll look at the internal forces and stresses in these structures and consider the distribution of shear forces and bending moments inside a beam.
So far, our analysis has been strongly dependent on Newton’s three laws of motion. However, there are cases where these laws do not provide enough information for our structural analyses. And so, this week we will introduce the principle of compatibility of displacements, which allows us to analyse a particular class of structures that have some degree of indeterminacy and redundancy. In this context, redundancy takes its usual meaning a four-legged table has some redundancy because, it has more legs than are strictly necessary, from the perspective of equilibrium. However, it’s indeterminate not because it can’t make decisions or determinations, which is of course true, but because we can’t determine the stresses and strains acting in it from Newton’s three laws alone.

Last week was about shells and shafts – membrane stress, shear stress and energy. This week is about beams and redundancy – bending and imaginary deformations. Watch the video for a more in-depth preview of this week which will end with a dinosaur, a mid-course review followed by a quiz and a design brief for you to think about.

This article is from the free online

Understanding Superstructures

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now