Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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The Leaning Tower*

The photograph below of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was taken from an advertisement found in a 1994 airline magazine. Assume that the photo of the man talking on the telephone has been dubbed in and is not part of the original photograph.

  1. Examine the photograph. Take the measurements in centimeters that are needed to find a scale that enables you to estimate the length of the tower in meters (i.e., its height if it were standing up straight,) Use only evidence in the photograph. No other data are allowed. Then estimate the tower length in meters.
  2. According to data published in Sir Bannester Fletcher's A History of Architecture the diameter of the lower part of the tower is 16.0 m. Using this data find another scale factor for estimating the length of the tower, and then re-estimate the length of the tower using this new scale factor.
  3. Which of the scale factors (a) or (b) do you think will give the best estimate of the length of the tower? Explain the reasons for your answers.
  4. Using the scale factor you found in part (b) what is the length of the tower without the belfry or narrow top segment? (Just consider the bottom 7 stories.)

* From Workshop Physics

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Page last modified September 30, 2002: G09