December 13, 2010


This weekend I spent a lot of time fooling around with Google Earth, marveling at the incredibly crisp and clear satellite photographs of my house, my street, my neighborhood…..  It is incredible (though a little spooky!) to see the kind of pictures we can capture from cameras orbiting in the exosphere (the outermost portion of Earth’s atmosphere).


Then this morning I came across this photograph of the tallest building in the world - the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai. It was taken by the GeoEye-1 satellite from an altitude of 423 miles. Look at how tiny the other buildings down on the ground look…..and then look at how big the Buri Khalifa appears. Can you think of another way to know, by looking at this photograph, that the building is very tall?

You can tell by looking at the shadows cast by all of the buildings in the photograph. The big building has a shadow that is at least 5 times longer than the shadow of any other building in this cityscape. That really tells you something about how tall this building is!

This skyscraper stands 2,717 feet high, has 160 floors, and is the tallest human-made structure ever built. When the building was opened in January of this year, it returned the location of Earth’s tallest free-standing structure to the Middle East, where the Great Pyramid of Giza held the record for almost four thousand years (up until 1311, when they built the Lincoln Cathedral in England).










When I wrote my book SKYSCRAPERS in 2005, the tallest building in the world was Taipei Financial Center in Taiwan. It rose 1,667 feet into the air, and had 101 stories. 

I wrote in that book:

Skyscrapers are super-tall buildings that seem to scrape against the sky.

When you look down from a high window, people on the streets look like tiny ants.

Clouds may drift by below your view. It feels like you’re on top of the world.

How I would love to be able to look down from the top of this new record-holder. Talk about being in the clouds!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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