When it comes to radical mega-infrastructure projects, we can only dream — but we dream big. Here is one such staggering proposal to build miles and miles of 300m tall super-walls that will once and forever save Tornado Alley in the US from its eponymous natural disaster.
The idea comes to us from Temple University physicist Rongjia Tao, who will present his research at the next American Physical Society meeting in March. Tao proposes three great walls running east-west across North Dakota, between Kansas and Oklahoma, and between Texas and Louisiana. These great walls would be 300m tall and 45m thick. In theory, these walls are supposed to act like natural mountain ranges, blocking the northbound warm air flow and southbound cold air flow that collide to form tornadoes.
Will it work? Yeah, well... no. "This is essentially a case of a physicist, who may be very good in his sub-discipline, talking about a subject about which he is abysmally ignorant," Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory told USA Today. Apparently, Rao's admittedly ambitious plan actually ignores why tornadoes form in the first place.
But there is, perhaps, a sci-fi novel or two to be written from this otherwise quite dry conference abstract. What type of society could pull off such a gigantic infrastructure project? What would it be like to live in a United States where its states are, in fact, divided by huge anti-tornado walls? What horrors might we accidentally replace these tornadoes with? [Bulletin of the American Physical Society via Popular Science]
Picture: OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) via Wikimedia Commons