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What's the Longest Bridge in the World?

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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.

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How Do Aerial Skiers Perfect Their Jumps?
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Cameron Spencer, Getty Images

If you've ever watched an aerial skier in action, you know that some of the maneuvers these athletes pull off are downright jaw-dropping—and you've probably seen more than a few of these skiers land on their rear ends at some point. The jumps are incredible, but they're also so technical that one seemingly insignificant motion can drop a skier on his or her tail.

Given that the skiers can fly up to 60 feet in the air and come down on a 37-degree grade, it seems like just going out and trying a new trick would be a good way to break your neck. That's why you'll need one unexpected piece of equipment if you want to start training for aerials: a towel.

Instead of perfecting their flips and twists over the snow, aerial skiers try out their new maneuvers on ramps that launch them over huge swimming pools. The U.S. national team has facilities in Park City, Utah and Lake Placid, New York that include specially designed pools to help competitors perfect their next big moves. The pools have highly aerated patches of bubbles in their centers that decrease the surface tension to make the water a bit softer for the skiers' landings.

If you're an aspiring aerial skier, expect to get fairly wet. New skiers have to make a minimum of 200 successful jumps into water before they even get their first crack at the snow, and these jumps have to get a thumbs up from coaches in order for the skier to move on.

This sort of meticulous preparation doesn't end once you hit the big-time, either. American Ashley Caldwell, one of the most decorated athletes in the sport, is competing in her third Olympics in Pyeongchang, but failed to advance past the qualifiers on February 15, as she wasn't able to land either one of the two triple-flipping jumps she attempted. Still, it's this very sort of risk-taking that has brought her to the top of her game, and caused friction with more than one of her past coaches.

"Why win with less when you can win with more?" Caldwell said of her competition mentality. “I don’t want to go out there and show the world my easiest trick. I want to show the world my best trick, me putting everything on the line to be the best.”

You can check out some of Team USA's moves in the video below:

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Is There Really Such Thing As 'Muscle Memory'?
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Is there really such a thing as 'muscle memory'? For example, in the sense of your fingers remembering where the keys of the keyboard are?

C Stuart Hardwick:

Yes and no. There is no literal memory in the muscles, but the thing people call “muscle memory” exists, though the name is a misnomer.

A better name might be “subconscious memory,” as the information is stored in the brain, but is most readily accessible—or only accessible—by non-conscious means.

What “non-conscious” refers to here is the brain’s enormous capacity to train up what might almost be called “subroutines,” that exist outside our conscious experience. I like the term for this that at least one researcher in the field uses: “zombie agency.”

Zombie agents are non-conscious, or sub-conscious (in the literal, not the Freudian sense) that can do essentially everything you can do except make value judgments. So, for example, you don’t consciously know how to control your muscles in order to walk —in all likelihood, you wouldn’t know where to begin—but your zombie agents do, and they’ll take you wherever you want to go, dodging curbs and puppies, and “waking you” when appropriate to decide which babies to stop and kiss.

Zombie agents can be rather startling things. When you suddenly become aware that you’ve driven halfway across town in the direction of the office instead of going to the shoe store Saturday morning, you have zombie agents to thank. You “wake” as if from slumber, and with the frightening realization that you’ve been flying down the highway at prodigious speed while your mind was on other things. You feel as if you’ve been asleep, and in a way you have—but a very funny kind of sleep in which it is only the uppermost layer of abstract reason that is disassociated from the rest of conscious experience. Your zombie agents have been driving to work, responding to traffic, adjusting the radio, noting the check engine light, all the things you think of as “you, driving the car,” except the big one: deciding where to go. That part was on automatic pilot (which is another good way to think of this).

This is at the advanced end of the spectrum. Typing your friend’s phone number using “muscle memory” is at the other, but it’s the same phenomenon.

We didn’t evolve to remember phone numbers, so we aren’t very good at it. In fact, we are so bad at it, we invent all sorts of mnemonic devices (memory aids) to help us [in] relating numbers to words or spacial memory, either of which are closer to the hunting and gathering we are evolved for. The illusion of “muscle memory” arises because we are supremely well adapted to manual manipulation and tool-making. We don’t need to invent a memory aid to help us remember what we do with our hands, we only have to practice.

So the conscious mind says “dial Tabby’s number,” and our fingers—or more correctly, the zombie agent which learned that task—do it. Similarly, after sufficient training, we can do the same thing with tasks like “play a major fifth,” "drive to work,” or “pull an Airbus A380 up for a go-around.”

It feels like muscle memory because the conscious mind—the part you experience as being you—is acting like a coach driver, steering the efforts of a team of zombie agents, all harnesses to collective action. But it isn’t muscle memory, it's just memory—though it may be stored (or at least some of it) in the deeper, motor cortex parts of the brain.

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

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