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The 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

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The 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

The 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

With every day that passes, thousands of new civil engineering projects are completed around the globe. They might be as simple as building the foundation for a house or as complex as designing a suspension bridge that spans an entire river.

Once in a while, however, a very special type of civil engineering marvel gets finished that is earmarked to forever exist in a league of its own.

Civil Engineering Feats

Today’s infographic comes to us from Norwich University, and it counts down the 10 most impressive civil engineering projects ever completed by humanity.

These unique and extremely bold endeavors tend to exceed all normal standards of size, complexity, and manpower required. They transcend time and bestow wonder upon new generations, showing that incredible feats are possible with the right team, ideas, and expertise at hand.

Some of these projects were also included on the 1994 list of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, put together by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Meanwhile, the Great Pyramid is the only entry from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World list.

Counting Down the Top 10

Here are the projects, going from #10 all the way to #1:

10. Qingdao Haiwan Bridge
This 26.4 mile (42.5 km) bridge was completed in 2011 in China, using 450,000 tons of steel and 3 million cubic yards of concrete.

9. Burj Khalifa
The world’s tallest skyscraper is one of many fascinating projects in Dubai. It reaches 2,717 ft (828 m) in height, almost a full 1,000 ft higher than One World Trade Center in New York.

8. English Channel Tunnel
This 31 mile (50 km) long tunnel is also up to 250 ft (76 m) deep, connecting England and France.

7. Golden Gate Bridge
This historic wonder connects San Francisco to the rest of the bay, and needed an incredible 600,000 rivets in its construction.

6. Hoover Dam
This dam formed the largest man-made lake in the Western Hemisphere, and it generates 4 billion kWh of energy per year.

5. Panama Canal
This 47 mile (77 km) long man-made canal was designed to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to provide trade ships with passage between North and South America. It needed more than 60 million pounds of dynamite to dig.

4. Brooklyn Bridge
The first suspension bridge to use steel in its cables was also the longest in the world at the time of its construction.

3. Aqueduct of Segovia
This amazing aqueduct in Spain was made without the use of mortar, and is so well-preserved that it is still in use today.

2. Great Wall of China
What many people do not know about this enormous 5,500 mile (8,850 km) long wall is that the mortar connecting stones was made from rice flour.

1. Great Pyramid of Giza
This incredible creation is made of 2.3 million stone blocks, which required the constant labor of 30,000 people to build. It was the tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years.

A Final Note

The list represents the ranking as done by Norwich University’s civil engineering department, and surely there are other incredible feats that are missed by this ranking. Those would include projects like the Three Gorges Dam in China, the CN Tower, and many other worthy accomplishments.

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Misc

These Powerful Maps Show the Extremes of U.S. Population Density

The U.S. population is spread across a huge amount of land, but its distribution is far from equal. These maps are a unique look at population density

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us cities population density equivalent map

America’s 328 million people are spread across a huge amount of territory, but the population density of various regions is far from equal.

It’s no secret that cities like New York have a vastly different population density than, say, a rural county in North Dakota. Even so, this interactive map by Ben Blatt of Slate helps visualize the stark contrast between urban and rural densities in a way that might intrigue you.

How many counties does it take to equal the population of these large urban areas? Let’s find out.

New York City’s Rural Equivalent

New York City (proper) Population: 8.42 million
New York City Population density: 27,547 persons / mi²

New York City became the largest city in the U.S. back in 1781 and has long been the country’s most densely packed urban center. Today, 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in The Big Apple.

new york city population density equivalent map

For the northwestern counties above to match the population of New York City, it takes a land area around the size of Mongolia. The region shown above is 645,934 mi², and runs through portions of 12 different states.

In order to match the population of the entire New York metropolitan area, which holds 18 million people and includes adjacent cities and towns in New York state, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the above equivalent area would have to be even more massive.

Los Angeles County’s Rural Equivalent

LA County Population: 10.04 million
LA County Population density: 2,100 persons / mi²

Los Angeles County is home to the 88 incorporated cities that make up the urban area of Los Angeles.

Even excluding nearby population centers such as Anaheim, San Bernadino, and Riverside (which are located in adjacent counties) it is still the most populous county in the United States, with over 10 million inhabitants.

los angeles county population density equivalent map

To match this enormous scale in Middle America, it would take 298 counties covering an area of 471,941 mi².

Chicago’s Rural Equivalent

Chicago Metropolitan Area Population: 9.53 million
Chicago Metropolitan Area Population density: 1,318 persons / mi²

Next up is America’s third largest city, Chicago. For this visualization, we’re using the Chicago metropolitan area, which covers the full extent of the city’s population.

chicago population density equivalent map

To match the scale of the population of the Windy City, we would need to add up every county in New Mexico, along with large portions of Colorado, Arizona, and Texas.

Turning the Tables?

Conversely, what if we transported the people in the country’s least densely populated counties into the middle of an urban center?

RankCountyPopulation
1Kalawao County, Hawaii86
2Loving County, Texas169
3King County, Texas272
4Kenedy County, Texas404
5Arthur County, Nebraska463

As it turns out, the total population of the five least populated counties is just 1,394—roughly the same amount of people that live on the average Manhattan block.

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Visualized: Comparing the Titanic to a Modern Cruise Ship

The sheer size of the Titanic was a sight to behold in 1912, but over 100 years later, how does this vessel compare to a modern cruise ship?

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Remembering the Tragedy of the Titanic

When the Titanic was completed on April 2, 1912, it was the largest and perhaps most luxurious ship in the world. The vessel could hold over 3,300 people including crew members, and boasted various amenities including a swimming pool and squash court.

The Titanic’s impressive size attracted many of the world’s wealthiest individuals, and on April 10, 1912, it set out on its maiden voyage. Just five days later, the ship sank after hitting an iceberg, resulting in more than 1,500 deaths.

It’s been over 100 years since the Titanic’s demise, so how have passenger ships evolved?

To find out, we’ve visualized it beside Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, currently the world’s largest cruise ship.

The Size of the Titanic, in Perspective

The following table lists the dimensions of both ships to provide a better understanding of the Titanic’s relative size.

 RMS TitanicSymphony of the Seas
Year Built19122018
Length882ft (269m) 1,184ft (361m)
Width92ft (28m)215ft (66m)
Height175ft (53m)238ft (73m)
Internal volume46,328 gross register tonnage (grt)228,081 gross tonnage (gt)
Passengers2,4356,680
Crew8922,200

Source: Owlcation, Insider
Note: Gross register tonnage (grt) is a historic measure of a ship’s internal volume. This metric was replaced by gross tonnage (gt) on July 18, 1982.

One of the biggest differences between these two ships is width, with the latter being more than twice as wide. This is likely due to the vast amenities housed within the Symphony of the Seas, which includes 24 pools, 22 restaurants, 2 rock climbing walls, an ice-skating rink, and more. With accommodations for 6,680 passengers, the Symphony of the Seas also supports a crew that is 147% larger.

The Symphony of the Seas clearly surpasses the Titanic in terms of size, but there’s also a substantial difference in cost. When converted to today’s dollars, the bill for the Titanic equates to roughly $400 million, less than half of the Symphony of the Seas’ cost of $1.35 billion.

Lessons Learned from the Disaster

Inadequate safety preparations were a contributor to the Titanic’s high death toll. During its journey, the vessel carried enough lifeboats to accommodate just 33% of its total passengers and crew. This was legal at the time, as regulations based a ship’s number of required lifeboats on its weight, rather than its passenger capacity.

To make matters worse, investigations determined that the Titanic’s lifeboats had not been used to their full capacity, and that a scheduled lifeboat drill had been cancelled by the ship’s captain. These shortfalls, among others, paved the way for numerous improvements in maritime safety regulation.

These include the creation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea Treaty (SOLAS) in 1914, which is still in force today. Regarded as the most important international treaty on ship safety, SOLAS has been updated numerous times and is followed by 164 states, which together flag 99% of merchant ships (by gross tonnage) on the high seas today.

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