Today I stopped in to Berkeley and Oakland to see family. I didn’t actually see the Bay on this trip except a glimpse as I was coming over the hill towards upper Berkeley. I always love visiting, swing dancing, hitting Amoeba Records, hiking in the Marin headlands, and so on, but the coolest thing I ever saw in the area is the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Bay Model on the water in Sausalito.
The major impression you get from the thing is that it’s big. The building is cavernous, the surrounding floor and walkways vary in height so workers (and visitors) don’t always have to bend over to reach the water in interesting places, the channels that feed the bay are quantitatively representative but are not always laid out according to the map, numerous copper fins are attached to the bay and ocean floor to help calibrate the model, and there are instruments and labels everywhere.
It was built in the 1950s to assess the feasibility of damming off the north end of the bay (with a negative result). The model is a form of analog simulator, which is not to be confused with a simulation run on an analog computer. Nowadays such investigations would be carried out using (digital) computer simulation, which renders the Bay Model obsolete for serious research. However, it remains open as an educational tool and a fascinating reminder of how really smart people did really smart things not too long ago.