Stopping a Disastrous Plan with Science: the Bay Model

  • Published on: 01 December 2016
  • John Reber had a plan: to dam the San Francisco Bay. He convinced some politicians - and it took the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bay Model they built in Sausalito, to prove him not just wrong, but dangerously wrong.

    Thanks to all the team at the Bay Model! You can find out more here:

    Edited by Michelle Martin (@mrsmmartin)
    CG sequence by David 'Hoolopee' Post (

    I'm at
    on Twitter at
    on Facebook at
    and on Instagram and Snapchat as tomscottgo
  • Runtime : 4:34
  • tomscott tom scott amazing places bay model john reber reber plan san francisco us army corps of engineers san francisco bay park ranger


  • Tom Scott
    Tom Scott   2 years ago

    I've wanted to film here for years, and I finally made it! And this may be the first time someone's actually put a camera underwater in the Model: refraction means it's a lot deeper than it appears from the side...

  • NortheastGamer
    NortheastGamer   2 days ago

    I kind of want to just watch footage of experiments and listen to a scientist interpret the results.

  • Pre-Packaged _
    Pre-Packaged _   2 days ago

    And yet, still today millions of people protest for radical policy without knowing what the actual effects would be.

  • flybydeath
    flybydeath   4 days ago

    For some reason Tom looks like bud from Married with Children to me.

  • Fly Hi
    Fly Hi   4 days ago

    This perhaps strangely reminds me of the Aral sea - put into action, though probably without the testing I would imagine.

  • Pete S.
    Pete S.   1 weeks ago

    I love how your videos always seem to have a deeper lesson to them.

  • Atioras
    Atioras   1 weeks ago

    Even though I'm a college student majoring in Computer Science...If I was a kid, which would get me more interested in engineering/feats of science.1. A bunch of words and seemingly nonsense on a computer, typing in super specific details and getting out a super specific answer.OR2. Building a gigantic scale model with working water ways?Don't get me wrong, I know computers are the way to go, more accurate and much faster, but if I was a kid, having me look at a computer screen is boring, taking me to a giant warehouse where I can say silly things like "I can see where my house would go from here!" And then you turn on the machine and I get to see something cool like- how could we protect the city from a tsunami?THAT would get my attention from, "okay," to "WOAH!"

  • Emily Hawkins
    Emily Hawkins   1 weeks ago

    Yes!!! Fabulous to see this. And yes, after all, disproving hypotheses is how science evolves. Think of the heliocentric and geocentric argument. Copernicus and Ptolemy both had perspectives that could be argued with their limited resources. The philosophy of science is a real joy to learn 😃

  • Nk Bushoven
    Nk Bushoven   1 weeks ago

    When I saw this I was absolutely is wonderful...if love to see it again.

  • Dale Paynter
    Dale Paynter   2 weeks ago

    Too bad it wasn’t done, it could’ve destroyed the disastrous leftist hellscape of San Francisco 😂

  • Evil Sharkey
    Evil Sharkey   2 weeks ago

    It’s times like this where I’m super grateful that someone had the good sense to test the project and put it in the capable hands of the Army Corps of Engineers. So much money, lives, and ecosystem saved!

  • SpeedHomeAttack
    SpeedHomeAttack   2 weeks ago

    Wow, an environmental plan backed by politicians and celebrities fails immensely, who would've saw this coming.

  • iamnotgeoff
    iamnotgeoff   2 weeks ago

    this would be the coolest place to build a model city and railway

  • keahistight
    keahistight   3 weeks ago

    Does the model include the needles and poop? How about the homeless encampments? No?

  • mylifeisJDM
    mylifeisJDM   3 weeks ago

    I remember going here in middle school

  • SM Vermeulen
    SM Vermeulen   3 weeks ago

    There is a smaller one of these at the University of Washington that is a model of the Puget Sound. I have done a few experiments with it and it has been used by police to do things like locating missing boats and bodies.

  • Thelastminstrel
    Thelastminstrel   3 weeks ago

    "But, this was the 50s and no one was thinking about the Environment then."You are guilty of what C.S. Lewis called; "The arrogance of Chronology"; the belief that because you exist at a later time than your ancestors, you are somehow superior to them, Intellectually, Spiritually, Woke-ly?What on earth did the folks, in the 50s no less, go to all the trouble to build this model? And why did they reject the scheme if it wasn't for fear of the damage it would do to the environment?What do you think motivated T.R. Roosevelt to create the National Park system?

  • Jimmi K
    Jimmi K   3 weeks ago

    I got 99 failures but my dam ain't one!

  • Purple Custard
    Purple Custard   1 months ago

    Sums Americans up really. It’s all about theatre and marketing. No substance

  • James Denney
    James Denney   1 months ago

    As incredibly expensive as it may be, there's something to be said about being capable of modeling something to test a theory as opposed to running a sim. When you show someone negative results regarding their pet project generated from a computer study, there will always be a cloud of suspicion surrounding your conclusions - an accusation that you "cooked the books". When you can show them a REAL MODEL, well any idiot can see how it works or doesn't, and the howls of foul are more likely to be met with derision than assent.

  • Andrew Stewart
    Andrew Stewart   1 months ago

    I have a hypothesis. There are two genders. Prove me wrong.

  • S D
    S D   1 months ago

    I hope remoaners don't see this. They'll want to build a scale model of the EU to try and prove a brexit disaster and waste even more money 🙄

  • WestCoast Michael
    WestCoast Michael   1 months ago

    I couldn't have summed it up better. Failure leads to success and the fear of failure can paralyze the best of us. Take risks in life, you will undoubtedly regret it if you don't.

  • Derek Finch
    Derek Finch   1 months ago

    Once again a fine example of engineering and science working together once again this is true science the real thing not the relies or did you said all those who mislead you this is true science work in and out and then coming to the conclusion that it would not work and would not be a benefit but it's nation this is proper engineering the real thing computer can do most things simulations can do most things but like most simulations they can be manipulated and can be misleading for those people who look motoring the project but this sort of sides cannot be denied or manipulated this is true science in action

  • Lori Keeland
    Lori Keeland   1 months ago

    I watched this vid a few days ago and now I'm using it as an example on my gov homework. Thanks Tom!

  • G M G
    G M G   1 months ago

    I would of loved one of these things as a kid

  • Onoxy
    Onoxy   1 months ago

    no wayyy i go there all the time, and the dam plan would have flooded my home

  • madlarkin8
    madlarkin8   1 months ago

    I want to play tabletop wargaming there. So badly.

  • Drew Withington
    Drew Withington   1 months ago

    The Reber Plan would have made Alcatraz a lot easier to escape from.

  • James Heseltine
    James Heseltine   2 months ago

    The issue I see is that you can't scale down the physics of the water, and you aren't going to capture the interplay between small and large scale dynamics. Probably good enough for what they were testing though

  • CoolAsFreya
    CoolAsFreya   2 months ago

    John Reba kinda sounds like Elon Musk, not actually being good at planning but good at influencing and promoting

  • SC Fulmer
    SC Fulmer   2 months ago

    It would’ve been a Billion dollar disaster...Too bad it couldn’t prevent the “”high speed”” rail ONE HUNDRED Billion dollar disaster😒

  • Darth Vestius
    Darth Vestius   2 months ago

    In my day there were no models. Just grit and determination and a couple of pals with prison made rubber rafts.But all in all it worked. By God, it worked. - Frank Morris