In 1940 a minor gale hit the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which started swinging as a result and eventually collapsed — dramatically. In this video, which includes a clip of the Tacoma collapse, the structural engineer Ahmer Wadee explains how complex numbers can help prevent such disasters.

To find out more about this and other uses of complex numbers, see this collection of articles and videos. To find out more about other aspects of Wadee's work see this video.

Ahmer Wadee is Professor of Nonlinear Mechanics in the Structures Section at Imperial College, London, and also leads a research group specialising in the field of nonlinear structural stability. In 2014 he was listed as one of the 100 leading UK practising scientists by The Science Council.