Why the Leaning Tower of Pisa is Incredibly Resilient

As travellers, we often forget to educate ourselves about the places we visit beyond the usual trivia. Our sources often include the tour guide mumbling facts every time the bus stops or last-minute Google searches before the tour starts. This is why a high-quality map detailing the origins of all the country names in the world should be interesting and helpful to all of us who are even the least bit keen to travel. Well, it should be fascinating to read up on stuff like this even before or without actually travelling, right?

Today’s wave of info has to do with romance, the pope, empires and emperors, pizza and pasta. I’m kidding. But close enough. If you were ever an 8-year-old who obsessively read about the architecture of the world in children’s encyclopedia (like me) or if you ever spent your honeymoon in Italy (unlike me, I’m single), of course you must have heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and its secrets — secrets that have finally been unlocked by a team of engineers.

[They] finally solved the mystery of how the seemingly unstable Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy has managed to stay standing for more than six hundred years, even in a seismically active region. A team led by Roma Tre University concluded that the tower’s height of 183 feet, the soft soil in which it stands, and the structural strength of the its marble all contribute to its remarkable resilience. This phenomenon is known as dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa began construction in the 12th century. Even then, engineers seemed to understand how the soil mix of the area contributed to the leaning, which reportedly started when the third storey was being built. This truth has again been recently uncovered.

The Roma Tre University researchers further developed previous studies by analyzing structural and seismic data records over time, the material composition of the tower (and its physical, chemical, and mechanical properties), as well as the rock and soil itself in the area. Their findings say that frequent and powerful earthquakes in the city didn’t damage the Leaning Tower of Pisa because of the insulation caused by the DDSI.

“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,” said University of Bristol researcher George Mylonakis in a statement.

If people are equal to buildings or structures, then I suppose this is the perfect time to say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, eh?

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Infection-Fighting Antibiotics Found In Dirt

As new medicine continues to break ground, healthy life hacks are bringing to light the strangest ingredients. From avocado husks to curry powder, the spectrum of power foods seems never-ending. The fact of the matter is — there are no limitations. In a recent study, a team at the Rockefeller University (literally) unearthed a previously undiscovered antibiotic in soil samples.

Tests show the compounds, called malacidins, annihilate several bacterial diseases that have become resistant to most existing antibiotics, including the superbug MRSA.

With over 700,000 people falling victim to drug-resistant diseases a year, the discovery is a huge sigh of relief. Gene sequencing proved the antidote’s ability to cure skin wounds. However exciting, the wait is going to be a long one.

Dr. [Sean] Brady said: “It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic.

“It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity.”

In the meantime, stick to moisturizer, people — flower pot dirt won’t do you any good.

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Airliner Is Powered By Mustard Seed Biofuel

When it comes to vehicles of the future, it seems the possibilities are limitless. Planes, in particular, have broken boundaries — running on electric or on no motor at all. Many advancements are still under wraps, or completely theoretical, save for Qantas’ latest shocking achievement. The airliner successfully piloted a trans-Pacific flight on 10% eco-fuel derived from mustard seeds.

The biofuel is reportedly capable of reducing carbon emissions by over 80 percent as compared to regular jet fuel. This means that the blended fuel used in… [the] flight should have resulted in a 7 percent reduction, which works out to 18,000 kg (39,683 lb) in reduced carbon emissions.

The Carinata mustard plant makes a perfect contender as the world’s leading aviation biofuel. Able to thrive under unsuitable conditions, the little-seed-that-could also improves soil quality and prevents erosion.

“Our work with Agrisoma will enable Australian farmers to start growing today for the country’s biofuel needs of the future,” says Qantas International CEO, Alison Webster.

Qantas’ ultimate goal is to maintain a near million acres of Carinata and produce 200 million liters of biofuel annually. If you’ve ever doubted the impact of agriculture, you may now consider switching gears.

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MIT Designs Dome Forest Habitat To Win Mars Contest

Preparing for life on Mars has become increasingly tedious, especially after discoveries of snow on the planet. Nevertheless, places like the UAE are eager to push forward the limits of space study, building a massive Mars metropolis. You know — just in case. But clearly, it’s MIT engineers who are coming out on top after snatching the top prize at the Mars City Design contest for their dome habitats.

MIT’s winning design, which the team calls Redwood Forest, is a collection of “tree habitats” connected through a system of tunnels called “roots.” The roots would provide safe access to other tree habitats, private spaces and “shirt-sleeve transportation,”

If the designs make it to Mars, each dome would house up to 50 inhabitants. Realistically, the ambitious tech team hopes to build 200, which guarantees 10,000 hopefuls a spot on life beyond Earth.

“On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life,” MIT postdoctoral researcher Valentina Sumini said.

It’s a daunting prospect, if it does happen. Hopefully MIT’s “forest” will make future residents feel right at home.

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Grow The Home Garden Of Your Dreams

With systems such as Ogarden, growing your own produce is now just as user-friendly as an iPhone. However, for a DIY enthusiast slash gardening newbie, starting up a backyard veggie empire is a bit more challenging. Gadgets aside, sowing your own pantry is not for couch potatoes — but it is highly doable! Here’s the low-down on how to get started on a home garden.

First things first, decide what you’re going to plant. Base your produce plan on your regular diet. If you aren’t big on fries or mash, it may not be practical to grow potatoes. (Then again, who isn’t a fan of fries?) Having a massive variety of sprouts in your backyard may look attractive, but may produce unnecessary waste. Keep in mind what grows easiest — usually, those are baby greens.

While some may have the luxury of a yard, apartment tenants aren’t quite as lucky. But, as any minimalist would say, there are always ways. If you live in a confined space, start a container garden. Herbs, as well as crops like cherry tomatoes, grow seamlessly in pots. Of course, you also want to purchase the right materials. One pot doesn’t fit all.

On that note, pick out the right pots for specific foods. Herb pots are often a foot in diameter, while other crops demand a flux of dimensions. Choose your soil thoughtfully. Figure out what will nurture your home garden best — you’ll only have to switch out your potting soil once a year. Still, don’t be afraid to experiment with soils that are denser, more nutritious, absorbent, and what have you.

Know how much sun and water your pots need. Growing a plant (and much less, a crop) isn’t all about maximizing sunlight. Seventh-grade biology may have us believing that growing greens is all about sun. Well, it is (somewhat), but in regulation. No one wants to nibble on dried out lettuce! You don’t want to drown your seedlings either.

Grown sprouts are quite the sight, and achieving a healthy product kind of makes you feel like a proud parent. While the thought of snapping off a pristine strawberry may be a little sickening, it’s best to harvest your fruits and veggies regularly. This promotes new growth. After all, why grow anything delicious if its destiny isn’t to end up in your stomach?

Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, hype your garden up a bit. Experiment with unique varieties. Try growing something you wouldn’t normally find in a makeshift garden, like kale. If anything, you’ll have new ingredients for daring salads and shakes. Master growing vertical. This may take a lot of time and patience, but you’ll learn how to make the most of certain crops. If you’re a go-getter, you can even get creative with your aesthetics.

A home garden may seem unnecessary, especially when you live across a fresh market. But learning the ropes isn’t such a bad thing. Anyway, with climate change on the rise, you never know when it might come in handy!

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