Structural engineer Steve Burrows, WSP USA’s relatively new addition and director of buildings, is the star of a series of National Geographic television documentaries, by Atlantic Productions, called Time Scanners. The programs use the "plot" device of 3D laser scanners that "unlock the secrets" of historic landmarks—from the pyramids of Egypt to the Inca city of Macchu Picchu. For the series, Steve got to travel the world, going where few are allowed to tread. What a great gig!

Last night, WSP treated a group to a screening of the episode on the pyramids, scheduled to air in the U.S. next month. The high-tech mapping exercise uncovered the high-impact (kidding) piece of information that one tomb of one Pharaoh was in a different place inside its pyramid than had earlier been thought. Revolutionary!

Another unlocked the secret that one pyramid bulges rather than the opposite, indicating that a change in wall slope part way up was purposeful not the consequence of a collapse. Another life-changing tidbit! And another discovery was that one of the horizontal stone rows of one of the Great Pyramids is nearly perfectly level from one end of the canted wall to another. (Seriously, couldn't that be mapped without a 3D laser scanner?)

Archeologists, Steve, the laser scanners from the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas, the film crew and the others in the film—who got to explore some pretty nifty sites—may care about a room in a different location, a bulging wall and a perfectly level row of stones. Not an historian, a teacher, a researcher or even an engineer, I don't really care about information for the sake of information. I want to see efforts put toward something of practical value.
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against 3D laser scanning, in association with BIM. I think it is great. It has practical and important uses in design, new construction, restoration and rehabilitation, and facility management.
But the documentary presented a lot of useless, but moderately interesting, information about the pyramids, one of which I actually have seen from a distance of about 150 ft. It's a good thing, too, based on Steve's much-more-interesting—some would say chilling—observations shared during the Q&A.
His "live" remarks had nothing to do with laser scanning. Rather, they came from Steve's 3D "eye-scanners," connected to his very personal BIM (Brain Information Model).

While roaming the warrens of the stone-walled rooms in one of the pyramids, Steve noticed large cracks in the walls that he says are "recent"—he could tell they aren't ancient by their sharp rather than worn edges. He also says the cracks were big enough, in places, to insert his arm. His BIM assessed that those walls are unstable and could collapse at any time. (Luckily, the collapse did not happen during the filming!)

Though I don't really care about the pyramid "secrets" unlocked by the laser scanning, I do care about Steve's discovery that some interior walls are unstable. So, thanks to National Geographic, an important discovery was indeed, though inadvertently, made about the scary state of the pyramids.

I'd say there is a follow-up documentary that needs to be done to draw attention to a serious situation. It could be called: Giant Cracks Threaten the Pyramids.