Several months after World War I ended, technological innovations produced for the conflict were being repurposed for peacetime uses.
Take this sound pinpointer, used to calculate where distant enemy weapons were located. This same invention could also be used for bridges.
One thing about bridges that has puzzled engineers up to this time is some way to measure the stresses… The plan, yet in embryo, is to adapt the instrument that listens to guns to listening to steel bridges, and by the vibrations received in the microphones to calculate the measure of the strain on the structure, or on any part of it.
Or take a device for measuring steel without drilling into it, used to speed up the production of rifles. This same invention could not be used for railroads.
A flaw in the rail is the explanation of many a railroad accident in which lives are lost and properly destroyed. The defect is within; there is no way of telling at the mill. So it is with steel in bridge building and other structures; a bad place inside may one day bring disaster. With this device developed to test out large pieces of steel, a step from uncertainty to certainty in an important matter will be taken in a great industry.
In the words of Bo Burnham: “War! Huh! What is it good for? Increasing domestic manufacturing.”
Peace Taking Over War’s Inventions: Tests for Gun Barrels Serve for Steel Rails and Big Gun Detectors Measure Bridge Strains — Bureau of Standards’ War Work Not Lost
Published: Sunday, March 23, 1919