Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eiffel Tower gets a high-tech tribute


Arguably the most widely recognized structure in the world, the Eiffel Tower was designed to stand for only 20 years—and some predicted it would collapse long before then. Even as it was being built for the 1889 Universal Exhibition, a professor of mathematics sagely calculated that when the tower was two-thirds complete, its legs would buckle and the whole thing would come tumbling down, crushing workers and houses alike.

Today, the Eiffel Tower is not only standing but remains in rude health, testifying to the soundness of Gustave Eiffel's design and the strength of “puddle iron,” the hand-made wrought iron of the late 19th century, say engineers.

Specialists at the Technical Centre for Mechanical Industries have put together a high-powered computer model based on the 18,000 pieces that comprise the world's greatest iron edifice and the emblem of Paris.

On screen, the tower has been exposed to hurricane-force winds, lashing rain, extreme heat, cold and thick snow, and each time emerges unbowed, they say.

“We have applied the most demanding test standards currently set in Europe and have found that the tower is in excellent shape,” said Stephane Roussin, a former French naval officer in charge of structural safety at Eiffel Tower Operating Co. “We have even doubled its weight to see what happens. The tower moves but is not destroyed.”

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