A team of Australian researchers recently climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa with a 3D scanner and came back with the most detailed map of the building ever. At first you might think that the beautiful results were meant for a museum, but this detailed scan will help scientists protect it from ruin.
This first-of-its-kind 3D scan comes at a time when the Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually straightening itself out. Not by a lot—the tower's recovered roughly an inch of its vertical incline since 2001. And while researchers don't think the building will lose its lean completely in the next century or two, they're certainly keeping a very, very close eye on it. That's part of why this new super detailed map of the building will come in handy.
A 3D scan of the Leaning Tower of Pisa hasn't been possible until now, mostly because the technology wasn't good enough for the tower's tight stairs and complex architecture. However, the Australian team brought out a new kind of scanner called Zebedee that was developed in partnership with Australia's national space agency CSIRO. "This technology is ideal for cultural heritage mapping, which is usually very time consuming and labour intensive," said CISRO's Dr. Jonathan Roberts in a press release. "It can often take a whole research team a number of days or weeks to map a site with the accuracy and detail of what we can produce in a few hours." It took this team just 20 minutes.
Architecture fans worldwide can rest a little easier now that such a comprehensive picture of the tower is complete. The same technology will travel to other world heritage sites to immortalize them in a 3D scan. In case there's ever a catastrophic earthquake or fire, these scans could be used to recover the historical landmarks. But in the meantime, researchers are indeed thinking of putting these scans in museums so that those who can't make it to the real thing can get idea of its glory. [PhysOrg]