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Leaning Tower of Pisa Secure For 300 More Years 168

Posted by kdawson
from the galileo-never-slept-here dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "The tower of Pisa began to lean five years after its construction began, in 1178, and by 1990 it had tilted more than four meters off its true vertical. Conservationists estimated that the entire 14,500-ton structure would collapse 'some time between 2030 and 2040.' Now the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been stabilized and declared safe for at least another three centuries. The stabilization, which cost $30M, was accomplished by anchoring it to cables and lead counterweights, while 70 tons of soil were removed from the side away from the lean, and cement was injected into the ground to relieve the pressure. The tilt has now returned to where it was in the early 19th century. Nicholas Shrady, author of Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa, says that the tower was destined to lean from the outset because it was built on 'what is essentially a former bog.' Shrady adds that the tower previously came close to collapsing in 1838, 1934, and 1995. (The commission convened in 1990 to study the tower's stability was the 17th such.) Although Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped cannon balls from the tower in a gravity experiment, Shrady says the myth is the result of 'the overripe imagination of Galileo's secretary and first biographer, Vincenzo Viviani.'"
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Leaning Tower of Pisa Secure For 300 More Years

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  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @04:39AM (#23635835) Homepage Journal

    ...tower of Pis began...

    ...buildt on...

    The first of those is pretty obvious.
  • by bushboy (112290) <lttc@lefthandedmonkeys.org> on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @04:39AM (#23635837) Homepage
    Hmm, proof readers day off then?

    I'm usually leaning when I have a tower of piss.
  • Crap (Score:5, Funny)

    by baggins2001 (697667) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @04:42AM (#23635851)
    I had Aug 2034 in the office pool.
    You bastards.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I had Aug 2034 in the office pool.

      You bastards.
      How much is the pool for? A hundred pounds of Detcord and you could still win.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by youthoftoday (975074)
      2034? That's quite some job security you got there.
  • by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @04:49AM (#23635881) Homepage
    Hint: Remember when Supes straightened the Tower after being exposed to the tar-kryptonite?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by priegog (1291820)
      Ah, most of us prefer to act as if the third (and fourth!) movie never actually happened.
  • Safe for 300 years (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @04:50AM (#23635883)
    Remarks like that are an open invitation for epic failure.
  • To me, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a monument of how human mistakes live on for centuries, and it was a miracle it was still standing. Now they've gone and reinforced it and taken all the fun out of it. They might as well have straightened it... It was also funny to me how an utterly useless building (who'd want to work with gravity pulling you gently towards the open window?) is conserved simply because it's old. If the same thing had happened today, which it does on a regular basis, the building wou
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm sure the hordes of people sitting around the square in Pisa, selling miniature towers and silver tea spoons, would oppose its being torn down.
    • by thermian (1267986) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @05:34AM (#23636059)
      It couldn't be straightened anyway, it wasn't finished before it began to lean, so the upper levels were built to be level with the amount of tilt present at that time.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        so the upper levels were built to be level with the amount of tilt present at that time.

        I think about that.

        I live about 9 blocks from the downtown Chicago and when I walk my dog, I like to gaze at the stunning Chicago skyline. I'm literally in the shadow of Sears Tower early in the morning, and sometimes it seems like some of the older buildings between the Tower and me look to be a tiny bit leaning.

        It's probably just a trick of the perspective, but as a non-engineer (actually, the anti-engineer), I marvel

        • by mh1997 (1065630) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @06:59AM (#23636405)

          I live about 9 blocks from the downtown Chicago and when I walk my dog, I like to gaze at the stunning Chicago skyline. I'm literally in the shadow of Sears Tower early in the morning, and sometimes it seems like some of the older buildings between the Tower and me look to be a tiny bit leaning.

          It's probably just a trick of the perspective, but as a non-engineer (actually, the anti-engineer), I marvel most of all that man is able to build so high and straight and true.

          There is no proof that humans built any of the buildings in Chicago. Furthermore, we don't have the technology to build higher than two or three stories at most. Obviously the same space aliens that built the pyramids built Chicago skyscrapers. I think a different group of aliens built Los Angeles - Mexicans.
          • :^)

            Cat got your tongue? (something important seems to be missing from your comment ... like the body or the subject!)
            • :^)
              Cat got your tongue? (something important seems to be missing from your comment ... like the body or the subject!)

              It's written in Pearl, you insensitive clod.

        • by Electrawn (321224)
          Facts about Chicago architecture:

          The Monadnock building has sunk since it was built. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3Y2H [waymarking.com]

          The Sears Tower does lean 6 inches to the west. Google around for the story, I remember it being told by a tour guide.
      • it wasn't finished before it began to lean, so the upper levels were built to be level

        So, it seems that those builders, besides not being able to choose a good place to begin with, were unable to extrapolate. Which part of "if this goes on" they couldn't understand?

        If it were me, I would stop building when it started leaning, and do it over somewhere else. To reduce the cost, the stones could be reused, just take it apart and put it back together where the ground is more suitable.

        • Re:Stupid builders (Score:5, Insightful)

          by NormalVisual (565491) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @07:27AM (#23636627)
          Given the way management works, I'd imagine the builders tried to do exactly that, only to be told by their superiors to continue working until it was finished, regardless of the outcome. If it fell, the workers would be blamed for their substandard work. If not, it would serve as a testament to management's foresight and proof of their competence to any who might have criticized their decision. In no case would the project's management ever be held to any kind of responsibility for anything bad that might happen.

          It's the way it's always worked, and the way it always will work.
          • by sconeu (64226)
            Especially since the "management" was probably some Count, Baron, or some other noble, who could have the complaining builder killed.
    • by pokerdad (1124121)

      To me, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a monument of how human mistakes live on for centuries, and it was a miracle it was still standing. Now they've gone and reinforced it and taken all the fun out of it. They might as well have straightened it... It was also funny to me how an utterly useless building (who'd want to work with gravity pulling you gently towards the open window?) is conserved simply because it's old. If the same thing had happened today, which it does on a regular basis, the building would have been torn down.

      They do their best to keep it leaning, but not falling because that tower is what makes Pisa famous.

      And while its true that its current state is manufacturered, this has been the case for a long time. It has been straighten before and it has been reinforced before, so this newest work changes nothing as its state before the latest work was already an artificial one.

      Also, you are right, it is conserved because it is old. What do you think they could build in its place that would have more value than th

    • by Hanyin (1301045)

      To me, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a monument of how human mistakes live on for centuries, and it was a miracle it was still standing. They might as well have straightened it.

      I believe that a non-Leaning Tower of Pisa serves as a much worse reminder of human error than a leaning one. The fact that it's reinforced just to stay up keeps the lesson alive.

      If the same thing had happened today, which it does on a regular basis, the building would have been torn down.

      So in your opinion we should just tear down every building not in pristine condition? If the same thing happened today we'd tear it down so that we could do something profitable with the space (apartments, office building, etc) and as the AC already said:

      tourism. It's arguably the most important source of income for Pisa

    • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @05:57AM (#23636157) Homepage Journal
      Well you're assuming that it will stand for centuries without any problem. Validating that assumption is useful as an engineering test case.

      And the Tower is only useless if art and history and engineering education are useless. While its foundation of course is famously defective, consider this: the oldest parts of this structure are nine hundred years old; the newest parts are seven hundred years old. What the medieval world lacked in civil engineering, it had to make up out of a combination of trial and error, craft, and sheer daring. Because they did not have the civil engineering knowledge, any structure like this that they built might collapse at any time. It's remarkable people even undertook projects like this, which were the work of centuries, many, many short lived generations.

      Yet even so, the tower has stood all this time, out of true. At the very least a fitting monument to the generations of craftsmen who built it so well.

      In any case the Leaning Tower serves as the bell tower of the Cathedral of Pisa, so it is not literally "useless".
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Fascinating story here of the cumulative mistakes and poor decision-making that resulted in the alternating lean to the left - lean to the right that it has today. (Kind of like our government I guess ... ) Written from a project management perspective, much of it will sound familiar in today's world. http://www.maxwideman.com/guests/pisa/vision.htm [maxwideman.com]
    • by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @05:59AM (#23636173) Homepage
      You sir, are a cold-hearted bastard with no sense for culture, aesthetics and history.

      Just because your overly functional mind sees no use for a building doesn't mean other people can't derive pleasure from it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by redGiraffe (189625)
      1. build tower
      2. it leans!
      3. $$$
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ishark (245915)
      Uh?????

      who'd want to work with gravity pulling you gently towards the open window?

      Do you think it's an office building or what? It's a bell tower. As long as it doesn't fall it serves it purpose. What is funny is that there are many other leaning towers around, but for some reason the one in Pisa has become "The" leaning tower.

    • by MagdJTK (1275470) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @06:12AM (#23636223)
      Exactly. I mean, when the French stopped using the Eiffel Tower for broadcasting, they tore it down immediately! As an Englishman, I've been campaigning for years for Big Ben to be demolished --- who needs it when we've got digital watches now? Pull your finger out, people of Pisa!
      • by Whiteox (919863)
        Exactly! It's a pretty useless bit of tower. Pretty much good for nothing and by the sounds of it it's a money pit.
        Just get rid of the damn thing. There's lots of photos around if anyone in the future wants to see it anyway.
      • by Fred_A (10934)

        Exactly. I mean, when the French stopped using the Eiffel Tower for broadcasting, they tore it down immediately!
        It went the other way round actually. It was supposed to be torn down (it was just built as a gimmick for a world expo after all) so to save it the engineering firm pointed out it would make a fine broadcasting mast (which it did, and still does).

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @06:48AM (#23636343)
      It's a landmark and even more importantly a tourist attraction. That's why it's valuable. And no, straightening would not have been an alternative, because the only thing that makes this thing at least somewhat interesting is its crookedness. It's like giving a freak show exhibit a correctional operation. Nobody would wanna see it anymore.

      If you're looking for useless buildings, you needn't go to Italy. Every country has them. From cathedrals to some person's birthplace to other monuments. Though, are they so useless? They serve, as mentioned above, tourist attractions, as some sort of spiritual focus and if nothing else as a reminder that earlier generations existed and did something spectacular as well. By your logic, the Pyramids would make a pretty nifty quarry.
    • Yeah we maybe we ought to bulldoze those "useless" pyramids, too. So out-dated, and what a waste of space!! If you want ancient Egypt, just go to Vegas!

      Same goes for Venice.

      Am I right?
    • You've got a point. Maybe they would have been better off spending all those stabilization funds on eliminating noobishness.
    • by will_die (586523)
      It is not saved because it is old, there are plenty of other towers in Italy as old and without the restoration. It is being saved because Pisa gets alot of money from tourists and without the famous tower no-one would stop in the town.
      It costs around $30+US to climb the tower and see other other buildings and they are just not worth it.
  • Am I right?
    Tower Of Pies [herbivoracious.com]
    • I tried that, but after stacking a few of those things it started leaning to one side and ... hmmm...

      Did anyone actually try to take a bite out of that tower?
  • by Haoie (1277294) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @05:06AM (#23635923) Homepage
    Another 300 years of putting up with Leaning Tower of Pizza jokes.
    • Well, there's an upside to all this

      Another 300 years of crafting more Leaning Tower Of Pisa jokes.
  • They said it was daft to build a tower on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em.
    But seriously, I'm glad that they mentioned the Galileo thing is regarded as a myth as I've had physics teachers that have retold the story as fact.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It's not completely regarded as a myth; there are a handful of Galileo scholars that think there may be some reality to it. It's all conjecture though, a single source of questionable reliability will forever make it impossible to distinguish myth from fact.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by grumm0x (1300553)
        Galileo was a smart man, certainly smarter than me. And even I know enough not to take a heavy weight to the top of something that's fixin' to fall over. Unless it was a "Hey, Bubba, watch this!" moment.
    • by thermian (1267986)
      I've had physics teachers that have retold the story as fact

      Doesn't matter, fact or not its a useful teaching mechanism. Plus of course the recipient of that knowledge then learns the truth later, which has the effect of reinforcing the basics facts which the original example was used to teach.

      Anyway, its a fun story, who cares if its not true? There are so many things for which we don't know the events that discovered them, and people do love a story.
      • Also, they're physics teachers, not history teachers. Get your history from those who have been trained in it. You shouldn't even trust what your teachers tell you in their area of expertise, much less random stuff that they tell you that's completely outside of it.
    • by owlnation (858981)
      I suspect this may have come form the Wikipedia page. Certainly it's subjective speculation presented as fact, like a lot on the Tower of Pisa Wikipedia page.

      The Wikipedia entry on The Tower of Pisa is a good example of why Wikipedia is troublesome. It's a got a lot of speculation on it that's unreferenced -- and were it referenced, it's sill supposition in many cases. The English is awful too. And yet... there's no way of fixing it, because it's locked off by a cabal of admins. Yep, who needs terrorists
  • Hmm. (Score:5, Informative)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @05:30AM (#23636039)
    Of course if they straightened it totally it would be worse, because the top leans the other way slightly as the builders attempted to compensate.
  • by splutty (43475) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @05:57AM (#23636161)
    I'm sorry, this is totally off topic, but to get an answer to this, posting it in the first thread is my best chance, probably.

    I used to get 5 moderator points, then a while ago, I had 10, now I have 15... Does anyone have any clue what on earth is going on? Do they stack over time if unused?

    And to stay slightly on-topic: I find it hilarious that they're fixing old engineering mistakes using modern engineering principles that are technically over 3000 years old ;)
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I used to get 5 moderator points, then a while ago, I had 10, now I have 15... Does anyone have any clue what on earth is going on? Do they stack over time if unused?
      I used to have five. Then I had zero. I still have zero. You must be getting mine. Give them back. Please.
    • The same points distribution has happened to myself, so I hazard a guess that the pool of moderators is limited, compared to the amount of moderation needed, so they are giving each moderator more points. This is supported by the fact that they don't extend the time given to use the points, so the net effect is that more mod points are awarded. Based on the age of some of the meta-mods I have done, they are months and months behind on that task, so it is reasonable that they could be behind on the moderating one. Given that the head honchos have unlimited mod points, to "mop up" what the moderators don't get, this new arrangement should free them a bit from the never-ending moderating task. Feel free to mod this -1, speculation.

      On-topic, the Tower Of Pisa is like Windows -- throw more money at the problem, but never fix it, and people will actually enjoy the defects. Marketing over engineering wins again!
    • I think they needed more posts moderated. Rather than lower the threshold for the "quality" of users that get mod points, they chose to give existing moderators more points.

      It's actually tough to use all 15 now, since I won't moderate in stories that I wouldn't have been interested to read in the first place.
  • ...built.

    There was a baker who had become rather popular with his breads, sandwiches and soups. He experimented with new and wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful meal idea. By accident one day a shelf bracket in his kitchen gave way and though nothing had gotten broken various item spilled onto the counter where he was making various products. In cleaning up the mess he scoped meats and chesses and sauces onto a flatten, by the shelf, bread dough. Being the experimental type and not wanting to waste hi
  • 70 tons? (Score:1, Troll)

    It seems unlikely that removing 70 tons of soil and replacing it with concrete is going to do anything.
    You've got 11,000+ tons of tower with a looong lever arm. Doing anything with under 1% of that mass at the base does not sound too effective.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)
      The concrete is probably mostly serving to make the apparent size of the hard foundation larger, so that it is pushing down on a great deal more soil, thus pushing down on each bit of soil quite a bit less.

      70 tons of soil is something like 70 cubic meters of soil(on the low end, that's at density of 2g/cc and assuming ton means 1000 kg (where it either should mean either 900 or 2000, I didn't read the article)), which is 'only' a pad that is 12 meters by 12 meters by 0.5 meters. If you go with 0.25 meters,
      • by maxume (22995)
        My stupid comment about a ton being 2000 kg did not factor into my calculations...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Skagit (910458)
        The tower is built on alluvial silt, and that's pretty nasty stuff to build on. Modern techniques for such poor soils rely on very large and very stiff concrete mats, like Chicago's skyscrapers, or on piles driven to bedrock like at the beach. One of the temporary stabilizing measures they used for the tower was to stiffen the soil by pumping liquid nitrogen through pipes to freeze the groundwater in the silt to prevent it from subsiding more on the side of the tilt until they figured out a more permanent s
    • by cowscows (103644)
      It's not just the weight that makes a difference, soil and concrete act very differently. I don't know any more about what they did than you do, but I imagine that even using a big tower as a lever, pushing through a 70 ton block of concrete is going to be much harder than pushing through crappy soil, because the concrete is basically one giant piece. Even if you focus all of your energy on one particular section of the concrete, the strength of that material is going to spread out that force and so you'd e
  • I reckon they've actually done a really good job here. With modern equipment, I think that technically they could just fix the foundations and set it back to vertical. But if it's not leaning then it's not much of a tourist attraction anymore.

    Stabilising an ancient tower in a still leaning position is pretty impressive.
  • Conservationists estimated that the entire 14,500-ton structure would collapse 'some time between 2030 and 2040.' Now the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been stabilized and declared safe for at least another three centuries. The stabilization, which cost $30M, was accomplished by anchoring it to cables and lead counterweights, while 70 tons of soil was removed from the side away from the lean, and cement was injected into the ground to relieve the pressure. The tilt has now returned to where it was in the early

  • The degree of lean (Score:4, Informative)

    by Huntr (951770) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @07:09AM (#23636453)
    According to the article,

    By 1990 it had tilted more than four metres off its true vertical
    Then it says

    The tilt has now returned to where it was in the early 19th century, with a lean out of true of 3.99 metres

    According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], they moved it about 45 cm, meaning 45 cm is the difference between toppling in the next few decades vs the next few centuries.
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      When you decided that 45 cm is the difference between toppling sooner, rather than later, you assumed (or ignored) a variable.

      The 45cm that the moved the tower is probably almost completely unrelated to how long the tower will stand. What they likely altered was the rate at which the tower was moving.
  • I don't know why this is suddenly news, I saw a tv program on this, at least 5 years ago. They showed the cables and supports being fitted, and a few of the less successful methods too.
  • Gallileo had a blogographer? wtf?

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