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The Kid Should See This

Measuring the Berlin TV Tower with a ruler and a shadow

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Can you calculate how tall a building or monument is by using a ruler, a shadow, and the scale on a map? Mathematician Matt Parker attempts this ambitious math feat during his trip to the German capital. The structure he’s aiming to measure: The Berlin TV Tower.

“The TV Tower at Alexanderplatz is Berlin’s most prominent landmark and the tallest building in Germany. Its steel sphere contains a visitor platform and a revolving restaurant.

“Everyone is supposed to remember that Berlin’s Fernsehturm (TV Tower) is 365m high and the tallest building in Berlin. As urban legend has it, the tower’s height was a deliberate decision taken by Walter Ulbricht, Leader of the SED, so that every child would be able to remember it, just like the days of the year. In fact the tower’s summit today is 368m.”

Can Parker determine the tower’s height without Google or a tourist information book? Watch Measuring the Berlin TV Tower with a ruler.

measuring on a map with a shadow
We love this sort of urban expedition and what you can learn when things aren’t working out exactly as expected.

Next, go out and measure a shadow where you live. Per Matt’s notes: “If you want to try this, you can check what direction the sun will be shining at any location and for any date/time.”

The Berlin TV Tower
Plus, find out why all world maps are wrong.

And: How do we study the stars and measure extreme distances in space?

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