The bigger the better? Megastructures!

By Sergio González | 10:56

Burj Khalifa, the highest construction made by man

Not so long ago, we looked at Empire State Building in NY and were amazed by its imperial size. An engineering marvel back in the 30’s that pales when compared with modern constructions, so huge and complex we can’t help but name them megastructures. 

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats, part of Illinios Institute of Technology, is the agency to certify the tallest building in the world every year, which can only enter this category -and not be diminished to just ‘tower’- if at least fifty percent of its area is habitable.

Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, is the tallest man-made thing ever, either building or tower. This residential skyscraper features the Armani Hotel, the 902 foot long Dubai Fountain or the breath-taking Observation Deck in floor 124th. It touches the heavens at 2992 ft (829m) -beating every other landmark building on Earth as it kept going higher and higher- and reflects the powerful sun of the Persian Gulf with 120,000 sq meters of glass, which takes 36 people and 3 months to clean.

The new symbol of Dubai was chosen to see Tom Cruise in the fourth Mission: Impossible -Ghost Protocol, and it’s an Arabian ode to wealth and luxury living. Everything around Burj Khalifa is magnificent!

China likes their buildings to be monumental and we have to get used to seeing the latest Chinese megastructures on the top of the list. Currently, seven of the top 10 longest bridges are all in the largest republic of the world. Chinese coast is very irregular, closed by numerous mountains and where most people live so there’s no other solution but to connect cities trhough one hundred mile bridges, such as Danyang-Kunshan Gran Bridge (102 miles), the #1 in the world. It employed 10,000 people.

Same thing if we look at tunnels. Excluding water-pumping ones, the longest tunnel is in Guanzhou Metro, line 3, with 41,8 miles but the Channel Tunnel between England and France is still the longest underwater tunnels in the world and a marvel of modern engineering.

Some actual megastructures may seem hard to believe yet even the craziest projects could happen sooner than expected. In Total Recall (2012), Colin Farrell tried to defeat an evil British federation while living in a colonial Australia, the sole surviving parts of Earth in a post-apocalyptic and connected by a tunnel, a gravity elevator named ‘The Fall’. This sci-fi idea is actually based on the theory of gravity trains, which could make us cross the planet in a matter of minutes and become the largest megastructure ever.

According to math and physics it should work: a pod set free into a tunnel crossing the Earth would accelerate freely till the planet core -to a maximum speed of 18,000 mph- to start decelerating once passed the Equator, arriving at its destination at zero speed.

It sounds terribly scary but when trains were created, 15 mph were considered by many as extremely dangerous to health. Nowadays, the Chinese bullet train CRH can travel at 300 mph between Shangai and Huangzou and in Japan they are implementing JR- Maglev to reach 360 mph.

Airbus 380, a megastructure in the skies

Airbus 380 is the largest commercial plane and as its name suggests it’s a super-bus in the air, ready to fit more than 800 economy-class passengers or 500 in a three-seats configuration. This king of the skies -it’s so big airports must adjust their structure to accept Airbus 380- boasts the most advanced fiber reinforced plastics, the quietest engines and can take you from NY to Hong Kong without layovers at 560 mph. All yours for barely $400 million.

Emirates, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines among others already have some of this toys in use, where you can get a meal at a fine  restaurant, a massage at the beauty saloon or simply enjoy a drink at the bar while crossing the Indian Ocean, as the girls from Sex and the City did in the 2010 sequel. Anyway, if you travel in Emirates business class most sure you won’t be any willing to leave your heavenly spot. There has been cases of people praying the flight to take longer.

Photo credit: PacoAlcantara

Photo credit: chusico

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