toddatcw writes "In the wake of the Minneapolis Interstate 35W bridge collapse this week, Computerworld investigates ongoing research which could someday help to prevent future disasters. Acoustic emissions detection systems, which listen for the sounds of metal snapping on structures, are already sold and fitted. Likewise, a new generation of detector systems that monitor for tilting of bridge columns and piers are being designed, prototyped, and researched. 'Sound waves move more efficiently through solid objects than through air, making any sounds easier to listen out for, Tamutus said. "It's not amazing. It's simple. Doctors use stethoscopes all the time. If you put your ear on a train track, you can hear a train approaching from far away... The Sensor Highway II systems, which are portable and can be moved from bridge to bridge as needed, usually cost between $20,000 to several hundred thousand dollars each. Typically, evaluations take between one day and a week.'"