why's that | WMUK

why's that

A view of a vaulted brick tunnel with steam pipes and wires on the left side. The space is dimly lit by low-slung bulbs.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

This story originally aired in Aug. 2019. When Jon Stradinger was in a medical ethics class, a fact about the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, previously known as the State Hospital, got his attention.



Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Arthur Riley of Kalamazoo has a fond memory from Charlevoix, where he lived years ago. He said winters Up North started out snowy and gray. “But then the Lake froze,” – Lake Michigan – “And then we had a lot of sun. It was absolutely beautiful." (When the Lake freezes it cuts down on lake effect snow – more on that soon.)

a closeup view of a pile of old wood ties, which are heaped up like matchsticks and covered in snow
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

If you’ve seen a railroad, you’ve seen railroad ties, the beams that brace the track crosswise from underneath. In the US they’re usually made of wood. But when listener Gordon Stewart went abroad, he noticed concrete ties on railroads.

This got him thinking. “Why don’t we use concrete ties in the states, having seen them in Europe and a number of other places and thinking it would be a lot of advantages to them?” he asked.

A wide view of a busy intersection under a gray sky. A black car, white van and white truck are passing by on the busier road. The traffic lights are strung on a wire across the road. You can see the green and red lights.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Like many of us, Western Michigan University English professor Nic Witschi is working remotely during the pandemic. But normally he commutes on foot, walking up busy Stadium Drive from Rambling Road. In the 20 years since he started making the trek, he’s noticed something odd about the surface.

The picture shows a concrete spillway with a mill pond behind it, in a wooded area (the trees are bare since it's winter). There is muted sunlight.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

We are so glad to bring you this new episode of “Why’s That?” It’s our first since the pandemic arrived in Michigan. We are ready to take your questions again, and we hope to hear from you!