A new mathematical explanation of what triggered the catastrophic torsional mode of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Applied Mathematical Modelling, Volume 39, Issue 2, 15 January 2015, Pages 901-912.

Gianni Arioli1,2 , Filippo Gazzola2,

  1.   MOX – Modellistica e Calcolo Scientifico, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 32, 20133 Milano, Italy and
  2.  Dipartimento di Matematica, Politecnico di Milano, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 32, 20133 Milano, Italy.



The spectacular collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge has attracted the attention of engineers, physicists, and mathematicians in the last 74 years. There have been many attempts to explain this amazing event, but none is universally accepted. It is however well established that the main culprit was the unexpected appearance of torsional oscillations. We suggest a mathematical model for the study of the dynamical behavior of suspension bridges which provides a new explanation for the appearance of torsional oscillations during the Tacoma collapse. We show that internal resonances, which depend on the bridge structure only, are the source of torsional oscillations.


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Tacoma Narrows Bridge

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