CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

What's the Longest Bridge in the World?

Original image
Getty Images

Gephyrophobia sufferers should turn away now. We’re going to be discussing the longest bridge in the world, and if you have a fear of these water-crossing constructs, some anxiety is going to be inevitable. (Alternately, you might use it as a guide for where not to go.)

Bridges are modern marvels of engineering. Spanning over bodies of water, they can stretch for as little as a few dozen feet to several miles, facilitating the transport of vehicles from one place to another without the need to hop into a boat. Some are suspension bridges, knots of wire and steel without bracing underneath; others are segmented, with support throughout. When someone ponders what the longest bridge in the world is, they may want to consider what kind of bridge they’re talking about.

The Guinness Book of World Records ran into this semantics issue in 2011, when China finished construction on the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge, also known as the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge, near the Shandong Peninsula. The bridge spans an incredible 26.4 miles, with 5200 pillars supporting it along the way. The bridge—which took four years to complete—was so sprawling that it beat the previous record holder, Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, by more than two miles. Said to be earthquake- and typhoon-proof, it’s one impressive structure.

But the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is still significant. It’s 23.8 miles over continuous water, while the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge utilizes sea tunnels for parts of the structure and contains multiple lanes. As a result, Guinness refers to the Jiaozhou as the largest “aggregate” bridge in the world, while the Causeway is still believed to be the longest continuous bridge over water.

Those are impressive numbers, but if you don’t require bridges to be needed to navigate over bodies of water, then the longest bridge in the world might be the Dayang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China. Part of a high-speed railway system, that bridge stretches for 104.2 miles and provides train transport between Shanghai and Nanjing.

If a bridge only impresses—or terrifies—you based on it being the longest bridge in the world without any underlying support, then you might want to investigate the Pearl Bridge beginning in Kobe, Japan. The central part of this 2.4 mile long bridge has 1.237 miles of uninterrupted span.

Of course, length isn’t necessarily directly correlated with the fear factor. If your curiosity over the longest bridge in the world is really over the scariest bridge in the world, you may want to avoid photos of Russia’s Kuandinsky Bridge. Barely wider than a car and with no guardrails, it’s almost a theme park ride, albeit one closed to the public—leaving only the very brave to risk crossing it.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
Original image
iStock

How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Original image
Thinkstock
arrow
Big Questions
Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?
Original image
Thinkstock

Today, people around the globe will feel uneasy about getting out of bed, leaving their homes, or going about their normal daily routines, all because of a superstition. These unfortunate folks suffer from “paraskavedekatriaphobia,” a common neurosis familiar to us all: the fear of Friday the 13th. But just where did this superstitious association come from, and how did it catch on?

The truth is that no one is absolutely sure where the idea that Friday the 13th is unlucky originated. Donald Dossey, the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, suspects the fear can be traced back to a Norse myth about 12 gods who had a dinner at Valhalla—the fabled hall where legendary Norse heroes feasted for eternity after they died—that was interrupted by a 13th guest, the evil and mischievous god Loki. According to legend, Loki tricked Höðr (the blind god of winter and son of Odin, the supreme god in Norse mythology) into shooting his brother Baldr (the benevolent god of summer who was also a son of Odin) with a magical spear tipped with mistletoe—the only substance that could defeat him. Thus the number 13 was branded as unlucky because of the ominous period of mourning following the loss of such powerful gods by this unwanted 13th guest.

For whatever reason, among many cultures, the number 12 emerged throughout history as a "complete" number: There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 Gods of Olympus, 12 sons of Odin, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 Jyotirlingas or Hindu shrines where Shiva is worshipped, 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, and 12 tribes of Israel. In Christianity, Jesus was betrayed by one of his 12 Apostles—Judas—who was the 13th guest to arrive for the Last Supper. Surpassing the number 12 ostensibly unbalances the ideal nature of things; because it is seen as irregular and disrespectful of a sense of perfection, the number 13 bears the stigma of misfortune and bad luck we know today.

WHY FRIDAY?

Friday joins in the mix mostly because all of the early accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion agree that it took place on Friday—the standard day for crucifixions in Rome. As Chaucer noted in The Canterbury Tales, "And on a Friday fell all this mischance." Yet perpetuating Friday as an unlucky day in America came from the late 19th-century American tradition of holding all executions on Fridays; Friday the 13th became the unluckiest of days simply because it combined two distinct superstitions into one. According to the Oxford University Press Dictionary of Superstitions, the first reference to Friday the 13th itself wasn’t until 1913. (So despite actually occurring on Friday, October 13, 1307, the popular notion that the Friday the 13th stigma comes from the date on which the famed order of the Knights Templar were wiped out by King Philip of France is just a coincidence.)

The repercussions of these phobias reverberated through American culture, particularly in the 20th century. Most skyscrapers and hotels lack a 13th floor, which specifically comes from the tendency in the early 1900s for buildings in New York City to omit the unlucky number (though the Empire State Building has a 13th floor). Street addresses sometimes skip from 12 to 14, while airports may skip the 13th gate. Allegedly, the popular Friday the 13th films were so-named just to cash in on this menacing date recognition, not because the filmmakers actually believed the date to be unlucky.

So, is Friday the 13th actually unlucky? Despite centuries of superstitious behavior, it largely seems like psychological mumbo jumbo. (One 1993 study seemed to reveal that, statistically speaking, Friday the 13th is unlucky, but the study's authors told LiveScience that though the data was accurate, "the paper was just a bit of fun and not to be taken seriously." Other studies have shown no correlation between things like increased accidents or injuries and Friday the 13th.)

And Friday the 13th isn't a big deal in other cultures, which have their own unlucky days: Greeks and Spanish-speaking countries consider Tuesday the 13th to be the unluckiest day, while Italians steer clear of Friday the 17th. So today, try to rest a little easy—Friday the 13th may not be so unlucky after all.

Additional Source: 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios