How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 990

Why does the tower of Pisa lean? — CM, Edison, NJ
The tower was built long ago on unstable ground that was unsuitable for supporting such a tall and heavy masonry structure. For an object to remain upright indefinitely, its center of gravity must lie above its base of support and that base of support must be firm at all its edges. The tower's base of support had at least one edge that wasn't firm and that began to sink downward under the weight of the tower. Once this edge sunk a small distance, the tower's center of gravity shifted sideways so that it was above that weak portion of the base of support. This shift in the tower's center of gravity put even more stress on the weak part of the ground and caused additional sinking, additional tipping, and even more shifting of the tower's center of gravity. This process might have toppled the tower over by now were it not for recent efforts to stop the tipping. The base of the tower has been reinforced to prevent further tipping.

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