The Leaning Tower

IMG_5025Many iconic sites in the world can be a let-down when you first see them in person. But the leaning tower of Pisa, to me, was amazing to see in reality. Photos just cannot convey the awe that I felt when I saw the tower. It’s not just leaning… It’s ornate, delicately carved from marble. It’s gleaming white. It’s gorgeous. And it is definitely leaning! So much so that I am amazed it hasn’t toppled over yet.
I learned many things while visiting the site:
– they starting building the tower in the year 1173 and it took 99 years to complete!
I could just picture the architects, the artists, the workers hauling marble… How would they have felt when their masterpiece started leaning?
– the tower is 186 feet tall. You are allowed to climb to the top (8 floors up on 294 steps). But I’d be afraid it might topple over…
– the tower actually leans out almost 15 feet! That would be like standing on the railing of a pitching ship on sea…
– I didn’t know that this is where Galileo conducted his famous gravity test! He did that while standing on the tower of Pisa! Galileo was a math teacher in Pisa.

When Galileo was young, one of his contemporaries used these words to describe Aristotle’s idea of how objects fall:

There is a natural place for everything to seek, as:
Heavy things go downward, Fire upward,
And rivers to the sea.

There was no tradition of describing experimental research in Galileo’s day. Controlled experiments were almost unknown. So Galileo’s report was pretty skimpy. He seems to have dropped different balls from a tower. But what weights? What tower? We can be pretty sure it was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But we end up doubting whether or not he really did the experiment. Maybe he just reported what he thought should have happened.

One result of the experiment surprised Galileo, and one surprises us. Galileo found that the heavy ball hit the ground first, but only by a little bit. Except for a small difference caused by air resistance, both balls reached nearly the same speed. And that surprised him. It forced him to abandon Aristotelian ideas about motion. If he really did the experiment, it was surely a turning point in the history of science.  ( John H. H. Lienhard)IMG_5045

– the tower of Pisa is, sometimes, listed as one of the 7 wonders of the world.
And yes, it is PISA, not pizza! But if I had an Italian restaurant somewhere, I’d call it the Tower of Pizza!
We simply took the train to Pisa, left our luggage at the train luggage depot and walked to the tower, about 2 KM.
Oh and by the way, I do not have a photo of one of us pretending to hold up or push the tower… because about a million people were all standing there, looking like idiots, pushing up the air while their friends where being contortionists snapping silly photos…

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