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Engineers solve the 500-year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa mystery

Published: May 10, 2018
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Source: HSN

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Why has the Leaning Tower of Pisa survived the strong earthquakes that have hit the region since the middle ages? This is a long-standing question a research group of sixteen engineers has investigated, including a leading expert in earthquake engineering and soil-structure interaction from the University of Bristol.

Professor George Mylonakis, from Bristol’s Department of Civil Engineering, was invited to join a 16-member research team, led by Professor Camillo Nuti at Roma Tre University, to explore this Leaning Tower of Pisa mystery that has puzzled engineers for many years.

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The considerable height and stiffness of the Tower combined with the softness of the foundation soil, causes the vibrational characteristics of the structure to be modified substantially, in such a way that the Tower does not resonate with earthquake ground motion. This has been the key to its survival. The unique combination of these characteristics gives the Tower of Pisa the world record in DSSI effects.

Professor Mylonakis, Chair in Geotechnics and Soil-Structure Interaction, and Head of Earthquake and Geotechnical Engineering Research Groupin the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol, said: “Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the Tower to the verge of collapse, can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events.”

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