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We at Flamingle HQ appreciate it when we get a question with a concrete answer, and the answer here is not only straightforward and certain but also involves a construction material made of aggregate held together with cement. The UW’s longest-running experiment was a study of concrete that began in 1910 and ends this month, meaning it lasted 113 years. In the early 20th century, concrete was high-tech, and UW engineering professor Morton Withey decided to make the stuff his specialty. He wanted to see how long concrete lasted. In 1910, he created several hundred concrete cylinders and set them aside — some in water, some in the air — to see how they’d hold up over a decade. He would then take the cylinders and put them in a hydraulic press, recording how much pressure it took to break each cylinder apart. At the 10-year point, Withey decided the study should really last 50 years, and he set some cylinders aside. He created more cylinders in 1923 and again in 1937. By 1960, it really seemed like the study should go on for 100 years. Withey passed the experiment on to his former student Professor Kurt Wendt ’27. Wendt passed it on to his former student Professor George Washa ’30, MS’32, PhD’38. And Washa passed it on to his student Professor Steve Cramer ’79. All the 1910 cylinders were used up in 2010; the smaller 1937 batch was used up at the 50-year point, in 1987. And this summer, the last of the 1923 batch is going into the press. On July 21, Cramer — with assistance from his student Ellie Thomas x’25 — began crushing. The cylinders will all be rubble before the end of August. That will end the UW’s longest experiment — and one of our longest answers.

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