When will the leaning tower of Pisa fall over?
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You asked us, When will the leaning tower of Pisa fall over?
Pretty much since the first stone was laid, the tower of Pisa in Italy has been a Keystone Kops version of architecture.
Not long after construction began in 1173, when builders reached the third story, the thing began to tilt.
Theyd cleverly built it on a foundation of mud, sand and clay. It was kind of like quicksand, basically.
It took hundreds of years of fits and starts to complete the building. Architects tried columns of different heights to even out the lean which of course made things worse. And giving the tower a bit of an interesting, how should we say, banana shape.
As late as 1935, engineers managed to do exactly the wrong thing to try to shore up the tower.
By the 1990s, it was tilting 5.5 degrees to the south. That was just past the point at which it was supposed to collapse catastrophically.
Finally, someone figured out that it might help to just gently remove some of the soil from under the north side of the building, away from the list. And lo and behold if the good ship Pisa didnt start to right itself.
Now it lists at a comfortable and picturesque 4 degrees. The tower is in no immediate risk of toppling.
Unless theres a massive earthquake. Or a giant or tornado or meteorite or something.
For more stories like this, check us out every day at Smithsonian.com.
Critical thinking challenge: The author compares the tower to the shape of a banana. Which other objects have a similar shape?