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6/27/2014
10:11 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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Geekend: The Great Wall Of Oz

Can giant walls stop tornadoes and bring an economic boost to the Midwest?

After Ballmer: 8 Execs You Love To Hate
After Ballmer: 8 Execs You Love To Hate
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Maybe he has watched too much Game of Thrones, Sharknado, or The Wizard of Oz. A scientist from Temple University, Rongjia Tao, has hatched a crazy (but genius) plan to stop tornadoes in the US plains by building huge, sprawling walls to simulate the effect of mountains.

The US is hit by about 1,200 tornadoes each year, killing an average of 60 people, injuring another 1,500, and causing $400 million in damages. In 2011 alone, three mega-twisters caused more than $6 billion in damages.

Before we go into Tao's plan, here's a great video on why the US has so many tornadoes and how they form:

As the video shows in detail, tornadoes are formed when winds of two different speeds and temperature collide. Tao maintains that one way to stop this from happening is to interrupt the airflow when the winds collide. He studied other regions similar to the US that have confluences of cold and warm air but have fewer tornadoes. What he discovered is that many of these areas have walls of mountains, specifically three sets in China, that prevent the air from mixing in such a violent way. In places where the mountains don't interrupt the airflow, the tornadoes are worse.

[Can you tell the difference between parody and truth? Read Geekend: Onion Or Real?]

As for the walls Tao suggests building to simulate the effect of mountains, they might look something like this:

I'm only partially joking. While the Game of Thrones walls are said to be miles high, Tao's walls would still be an imposing 984 feet high and 164 feet wide, tying them with the 90th tallest building in the world and the 15th tallest building in the US. Only four US cities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston) have buildings that tall. (Side note: This is why I think the multi-mile-high walls in Game of Thrones are by far the least believable aspect of the story. I'd sooner believe in dragons and trees with faces than believe that a pre-industrial society could build a wall that high.)

If Tao has done his math right, something like this will happen (watch it all the way through):

OK, it won't quite be like that, but Tao's walls would break the wind patterns. But to do that, they would need to be miles long and run across three major tornado sources, in Oklahoma, North Dakota, and parts of Texas and Louisiana. So we're not just talking the height of these buildings, but their massive lengths.

The idea is genius even if a bit out there. The walls could include housing and weather shelters, even schools and shopping. Towns and cities in the area could move some of their most vulnerable buildings into these secure structures. If you can add some economic value to these walls rather than just make them pointless brick walls, there's no reason they can't house entire cities.

Before we get carried away, how much will these structures cost? Would the cost of the wall far surpass the savings from avoiding tornadoes? Tao doesn't think so. By taking account of the cost of a similar building in Philadelphia, he estimates that a one-mile, 1,000-foot wall would cost around $160 million. Bear in mind that unlike a building that people work in, most of the structure can be solid, without duct work or electricity, so they're easier and cheaper to build. Tao says that if you compare the cost to the billions of dollars in recent tornado losses, it seems doable.

But here's the problem: The three mountain ranges that Tao studied totaled 1,056 miles in length. If it took 1,000 miles of mountains

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 8:34:10 AM
Re: Weather Changes
Not sure about this idea, but I'd buy stock in the companies that build them


@progman2000, if at all government takes up this project I am sure it will create lot of employment opportunities and it will help the government in revival of the ecoomy. But the big question is will government take up such initiative ?
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 8:26:27 AM
Re: We Spent over a Trillion Bucks in Iraq,What's a Few Billion here and there?
Why not spending a few Hundred Billion here in America instead;which may benefit Us in the Long-Run?

@Ashu001, I totally agree with you. I think investing in America instead is good idea. Instead of spending $187 on building walls we can use the same amount to improve the warning systems and build tornado safe buildings where you can evacuate poeple.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 7:35:44 AM
Building walls
OK so I see a couple problems here.  First the disclaimer in there that went along the lines of "scientists aren't sure but they think..." and "maybe warm air pushes one end up" and "maybe hail or rain pushes the other end down"  that's a lot of guessing what might cause tornados to be advising the building of a $190 billion wall.  What happens if that's not how they are formed and that wall not only doesn't stop tornados but it actually intensifies the tornados that do form? 
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 7:04:42 AM
Re: Weather Changes
@Ashu I was not aware of dykes. Thanks alot for sharing. I will read about them and will discuss. :)
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
6/30/2014 | 7:02:43 AM
Re: Calling Christo to the Rescue
@Ashish I believe that it should be a naive idea that will work. Moving hamlayas is not actually that I mean, not moving mountain across the continant but may be creating one like creation of floating island is one of its examples. You can have middle east as a very valid example.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Moderator
6/30/2014 | 6:42:22 AM
Re: Weather Changes
Agreed @Ashu - not sure I want to be against mother nature.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
6/29/2014 | 9:51:20 PM
Lawsuits
If this were ever attempted, it would obviously affect numerous BIG Players, such as the various subsets of agribusiness, in a multitude of ways that I can't even imagine. The lawsuits would go on into well into the 22nd Century.
Hospice_Houngbo
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Hospice_Houngbo,
User Rank: Strategist
6/29/2014 | 8:09:15 PM
Re: creative solution
How will this experiment be performed? Interfering with the elements that affect tornado formation may be possible in a lab setting, but how this will help replicate the phenomenon in real life may not easy.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
6/29/2014 | 2:33:05 PM
creative solution
While this seems like a creative e solution I would want to see it tested. To your point, we may create another more serious problem. I would love to see someone experiment with a solution that interferes with the elements that allow tornados to form in the atmosphere stopping their development altogether.
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
6/29/2014 | 12:01:17 PM
We Spent over a Trillion Bucks in Iraq,What's a Few Billion here and there?
David,

America spent over a Trillion Dollars(and counting) in Iraq so far.

Look where that's landed us today-Iraq is in worse shape than ever and very much in Danger of Splitting up as we speak.

Why not spending a few Hundred Billion here in America instead;which may benefit Us in the Long-Run?

Problem is this Interfering with Mother Nature of the worst kind.

Doubt this will end well.

Regards

Ashish.
<<   <   Page 3 / 6   >   >>
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