Six foot, Seven foot, Eight foot, Crunch!

As humans living in the anthropocene we often don’t pay much attention to the shifting changes around us as they happen. It’s only in retrospection that we can truly appreciate the differences through the lens of time. Here’s a little fun opportunity to do that for a minor cultural item in relatively real-time.

There’s a notable bridge in Durham, North Carolina, USA that is famous for its shorter than usual vertical clearance. It’s known as “The Can-Opener” due to many inattentive drivers smashing taller vehicles into its lower clearance. There’s a website where you can watch videos of such destruction. Recently a short documentary was released about the bridge and its archivist. It’s well produced and worth watching.

Spoiler alert: The attribute that has made the bridge famous has been corrected. First an attempt in 2016 to enhance early warnings for motorists with vehicles that are too tall, which was somewhat successful (watch the video!) Sadly, and most recently, in October 2019 the bridge was raised 8 inches, irreversibly changing its namesake “11 foot 8 Bridge” and the complex enjoyment many folks have gained from watching box trucks being opened like a sardine can.

So what happens to the Wikipedia article on this bridge? Does interest wain in upkeep now that it’s been “corrected”? Will page views decrease as it drifts into the footnotes of history? How many other articles now collect mothballs after a flurry of activity – that may span days, or years but eventually fade? Such an interesting phenomenon. I wonder if anyone has researched to see if there’s some sort of “average attention span” for articles. :thinking:

P.S. At 8:25 in this video you can see this wonderful visualization called the “Cognitive bias codex” Assumedly hanging in the offices of the Center for Advanced Hindsight where two of the interviewed researchers work. Look in the lower left corner for a familiar credit. Or just spoil the fun and see the file on Commons. :)

The title of this post is a play on the lyrics from the Harry Belafonte song “Day-O” made famous in my youth by the 1988 film Beetlejuice.


Great question. I wonder about this as well. And if there are trends in what tends to spark more prolonged interest…