Wayback Wednesday: Leaning Tower Of Pisa 1173

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Wikipedia Wikimedia Pisa Image
Author: Arne Müseler
Wikimedia Commons

Eight hundred, fifty years ago, today…

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (torre pendente di Pisa…in Italian) is the campanile or freestanding bell tower of Pisa Cathedral. It is known for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation. The tower is one of three structures in the Pisa’s Cathedral Square, which includes the cathedral and Pisa Baptistry. The tower has 296 or 294 steps. [The] seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase.

The tower began to lean during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground, which could not properly support the structure’s weight. It worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century. By 1990, the tilt had reached 5.5 degrees. The structure was stabilized by remedial work between 1993 and 2001, which reduced the tilt to 3.97 degrees.

Construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. On January 5, 1172, Donna Berta di Bernardo, a widow and resident of the house of dell’Opera di Santa Maria, bequeathed sixty soldi to the Opera Campanilis petrarum Sancte Marie. The sum was then used toward the purchase of a few stones which still form the base of the bell tower. On August 9, 1173, the foundations of the tower were laid. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 14 of the same year, during a period of military success and prosperity.

The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-meter foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for the better part of a century, as the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle […], [otherwise], the tower would almost certainly have toppled.

There has been controversy surrounding the identity of the architect […]. For many years, the design was attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano […]. A 2001 study seems to indicate Diotisalvi was the original architect, due to the time of construction and affinity with other Diotisalvi works, notably the bell tower of San Nicola and the Baptistery, both in Pisa.

Between 1589 and 1592, Galileo Galilei, who lived in Pisa at the time, is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass, in keeping with the law of free fall.

During World War II, the Allies suspected that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. Leon Weckstein, a U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower, was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral, and its campanile and […] refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction.

The tower has survived at least four strong earthquakes since 1280. A 2018 engineering investigation concluded that the tower withstood the tremors because of dynamic soil-structure interaction. [The] height and stiffness of the tower, combined with the softness of the foundation soil, influences the tower’s vibrational characteristics in such a way that it does not resonate with earthquake ground motion. The same soft soil, that caused the leaning and brought the tower to the verge of collapse, helped it survive.

Wikipedia Summary

***The ceremony, for the 850th anniversary of the foundation of the Tower of Pisa, was started, today and runs all year to August 9, 2024.

850th Anniversary (
The Leaning Tower Of Pisa Was Once Tilting Dangerously (CNN/Sharon Braithwaite/August 9, 2023)

VOTD: King Air Landing 2005

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I can’t, for the life of me, remember where in the hell I got this. I have just collected things, electronically, over the years. Pretty amazing landing, considering. It reminds me of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s landing…sans water. ~Vic

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NOTD: Dr. Deep Resurfaces

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Doctor Deep CNN Image
Image Credit: CNN

A university professor, who spent 100 days living underwater at a Florida Keys lodge for scuba divers, resurfaced Friday and raised his face to the sun for the first time since March 1. Dr. Joseph Dituri set a new record for the longest time living underwater without depressurization during his stay at Jules’ Undersea Lodge, submerged beneath 30 feet of water […] in a Key Largo lagoon. The diving explorer and medical researcher shattered the previous mark […] set by two Tennessee professors at the same lodge in 2014. Dituri, who also goes by the moniker “Dr. Deep Sea“, is a University of South Florida educator who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering and is a retired U.S. Naval officer.

Guinness World Records listed Dituri as the record holder on its website after his 74th day underwater last month. Dituri’s undertaking, dubbed Project Neptune 100, was organized by [The Marine Resources Development Foundation]. Unlike a submarine, which uses technology to keep the inside pressure about the same as at the surface, the lodge’s interior is set to match the higher pressure found underwater. The project aimed to learn more about how the human body, and mind, respond to extended exposure to extreme pressure [in] an isolated environment. [It] was designed to benefit ocean researchers and astronauts on future long-term missions.

Associated Press
Key Largo, Florida
June 9, 2023

News of the Day

Story Sunday: Ig Nobel Prize Goes For Alligator On Helium

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Esquire Magazine Alligator Image
Image Credit: Esquire Magazine

“Alligator sucking on helium wins parody Ig Nobel Prize”

Scientists are answering a question no one is asking. What would it sound like if an alligator sucked up helium? When a team of international researchers wanted to find out whether a gator’s vocalizations relate to its body size, they devised an experiment that would earn them the 2020 Ig Nobel (a wordplay on “Nobel” and “ignoble”) Prize for acoustics. Researchers captured footage of the snorting alligator in a helium-filled tank. In perhaps one of the biggest letdowns in the history of scientific study, it sounded nothing like a cartoon chipmunk. Now in its 30th year, the annual Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony, usually presented at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, was conducted remotely due to pandemic restrictions.

Among this year’s other elite competitors, a study which demonstrated that meticulously groomed eyebrows are a reliable indicator of grandiose narcissism took home the prize in psychology. The prize in economics went to an international team of creeps (presumably) who wanted to know whether the rate of French kissing correlated with national income inequality. Based on data from 13 countries across six continents, they found that where kissing was more frequent, income inequality was also more likely to occur. Go figure. American Richard Vetter took home the prize in entomology for his brave study on spiders (which aren’t technically insects) that revealed most of his peers are, allegedly, arachnophobic. And, the award for materials science went deservedly (because it’s gross) to a collaboration between the US and the UK to study whether frozen human feces could be made into usable knives. Spoiler alert: It certainly cannot.

But, who could forget the most Ig Nobel moment in recent history? The medical education prize went to a roundup of sometimes ill-advised world leaders for showing that “politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can” during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hannah Sparks
New York Post
September 18, 2020

Researcher Receives Ig Nobel Prize (Lund University/Stephan Reber)