Discover the World of Science: A Travel Guide
Written By: Isabel Powell
Now that COVID restrictions are lifting and the world is becoming more accessible, many of us are yearning to leave home and experience the world. Whether through magnificent waterfalls and rainforests or beautiful, culturally diverse cities, every vacation destination provides an opportunity to explore the scientific enigmas that have molded our world.
The Grand Canyon
Arizona, United States
Sprinkled across the deserts of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, the dramatic canyons and caverns of the American Southwest are a sight to behold. Few of those landmarks, however, inspire as much awe as the Grand Canyon.
So, how exactly was this spectacular sight formed? Over one billion years ago, two of the Earth’s tectonic plates collided to produce the Vishnu Mountains. Over the next 500 million years, these mountains slowly eroded until a nearly flat surface emerged, causing a sea to form over the rocks. Sediment settled to the bottom of this sea, continuously compounding layers of organic and inorganic material. Each layer of sediment reflected the species living during the respective time period. About six million years ago, tectonic collisions raised the Rocky Mountains, causing the Colorado River to carve through the sea formed from the Vishnu Mountains and expose the visibly stratified layers of ancient rock that make up the Grand Canyon. These layers can provide geologic evidence that gives scientists a glimpse into history.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
This beautiful Tuscan city, home to centuries of artistry, history, and culture, is worth visiting for the delicious food and beautiful scenery alone. But Pisa’s main attraction, bringing in five million visitors annually, is rooted in physics.
Completed in 1372, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been tilting sideways ever since. Currently, the tower is at an angle of about four degrees but has tilted to over five degrees in the 1990s. The tower has yet to topple over due to its carefully designed geometry; its center of gravity lies over the base of the tower, allowing the structure to remain standing. While the Leaning Tower of Pisa may appear precariously balanced, it is in no danger of falling so long as it maintains a consistent tilt.
A train ride through the Italian countryside can transport you from the physical and mathematical enigma of Pisa to the archaeological wonder of Pompeii.
For centuries during the Roman Empire, Pompeii thrived on fertile agricultural land due to its proximity to the volcanic Mount Vesuvius. One unfortunate day in 79 AD, extreme pressure built up within the volcano, causing it to erupt and bury the entire city in a thick layer of ash. The lava and ash descended so quickly that it engulfed the entire city in only 25 hours. The hot ash solidified around objects on the ground, creating casts that survived natural degradation. Almost two millennia later, excavations reveal carefully preserved remains, aqueducts, homes, and faded frescos in a haunting tableau of a city desperately trying to escape disaster.
Grand Prismatic Spring
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States