Sunday, January 20, 2008

Leaning Tower Of Pisa

I achieved a milestone today: I "climbed" the leaning Tower of Pisa at one go - all 294 steps of it (if you climb from the north side of the Tower - see details below) - through the most dreaded machine ever invented - the Stairs Master. Imagine the stairs on the ground floor leading up to your apartment (say on the 25th floor for example), add the concept of escalator to it: wala! you have the Stairs Master. Climb, climb, climb - endlessly ... and to add to the dreadfulness to it, there is the varying levels attached: levels of resistance (difficulty), and 'revolution' speed of the escalator.

In all earnestness, give me the treadmill or the cycling machine anytime of the day - although the cycling machine comes in second as the most dreaded machine ever invented for the gym. Despite all dreadfulness, these are my 3 basic cardio routines everytime I stepped into the gym before even proceeding to the weights. My personal trainer promised that I will thank him in due time for putting me up to these rigorous routines (when I asked him why not many people at the gym does the stairs master like me - bimbotic questions to find excuse not to do it) on these dreadful machines (my god - how many times have I used the word "dreadful" here?).

Now that the first month of training just passed by today, I have already thanked him. Apart from bimbotic vain reasons of having toned legs, my fitness have definitely improved by leaps and bounds. No more asthma-sounding noise trying to catch for breath, and definitely, I am able to sustain longer and "heavier" trainings. To my colleagues, I even exude a more positive and energetic aura. Now, almost half of my colleagues (some whose age is twice than me) - have also taken up the 'sport' and have started signing up for memberships and began their aerobics on Friday (I must remember to ask them how it was tomorrow at work :) All in all, everything is going right on track and I can see many positive results, Alhamdulillah :)

Alright, I was just too elated that I had to rant about it. Now, for some educational value - some information about the Leaning Tower of Pisa:

The Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of the Cathedral. Its construction began in the august of 1173 and continued (with two long interruptions) for about two hundred years, in full fidelity to the original project, whose architect is still uncertain. In the past it was widely believed that the inclination of the Tower was part of the project ever since its beginning, but now we know that it is not so. The Tower was designed to be "vertical" (and even if it did not lean it would still be one of the most remarkable bell towers in Europe), and started to incline during its construction.

Both because of its inclination, and its beauty, from 1173 up to the present, the Tower has been the object of very special attention. During its construction, efforts were made to halt the incipient inclination through the use of special construction devices; later colums and other damaged parts were substituted on more than one occasion; today, interventions are being carried out within the sub-soil in order to significantly reduce the inclination and to make sure that the Tower will have a long life.

In all this story, it is possible to find a meaningful constant, the "genetic code" of the Tower: its continual interaction with the soil on which it was built. Today's (1999) works for the safeguard and the conservation of the Tower with very advanced methodologies are designed to fully respect this constant.

The height of the tower is 55.86m from the ground on the lowest side and 56.70m on the highest side. The width of the walls at the base is 4.09m and at the top 2.48m. Its weight is estimated at 14,500 tonnes. The tower has 296 steps (the seventh floor has a different number of steps on the two sides, if you climb it on the north part you can count only 294 steps). The tower leans at an angle of 3.97 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is 3.9m from where it would stand if the tower were perfectly vertical.

Due to the peculiarity of the tower, there is no lift inside, contrary to common belief.

Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannon balls of different masses from this tower to demonstrate that their descending speed was independent of their mass. This is considered an apocryphal tale, and the only source for it comes from Galileo's secretary.

In 1934, Benito Mussolini ordered that the tower be returned to a vertical position, so concrete was poured into its foundation. However, the result was that the tower actually sank further into the soil.

During World War II, the Allies discovered that the Nazis were using it as an observation post. A U.S. Army sergeant was briefly entrusted with the fate of the tower. His decision not to call in an artillery strike saved the edifice.

On February 27 1964, the government of Italy requested aid in preventing the tower from toppling. It was, however, considered important to retain the current tilt, due to the vital role that this element played in promoting the tourism industry of Pisa. A multinational task force of engineers, mathematicians and historians was assigned and met on the Azores islands to discuss stabilization methods. On 7 January 1990, after over two decades of work on the subject, the tower was closed to the public. While the tower was closed, the bells were removed to relieve some weight, and cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of the tower were vacated for safety. After a decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public on December 15, 2001. It was found that the lean was increasing due to the stonework expanding and contracting each day due to the heat of sunlight. This was working in combination with the softer foundations on the lower side. Many methods were proposed to stabilize the tower, including the addition of 800 metric tons of lead counterweights to the raised end of the base.

The final solution to prevent the collapse of the tower was to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle, by removing 38m3 of soil from underneath the raised end. Through this, the tower was straightened by 18 inches (45cm), returning to the exact position that it was in 1838. The tower has been declared stable for at least another 300 years.

In 1987, the tower was declared as part of the Piazza dei Miracoli UNESCO World Heritage Site along with neighbouring cathedral, baptistery and cemetery.

My next target: "climbing" the tower of the awesome and romantic Taj Mahal by next weekend. Small trivia: It has 360 steps!!!

Insya-Allah... Anyone else?

1 comment:

dew embun said...

'Dreadful' and 'bimbotic'???
My dose of laughter for today, Hoopoe...hehe.
I like to climb stairs too.It helps that my workplace is on treacherous terrains.
Keep going!