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Crooked – and proud of it

When the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa underwent a structural adjustment during the 1990s, engineers prevented its collapse and reportedly stabilized it for at least 300 more years. But what they surely didn't bargain for was that retired Dutch geometrician Jacob van Dijk would come along and use his measuring skills to determine whether Pisa's campanile or the equally old Walfridus church tower in the northern Dutch town of Bedum leans more. To the naked eye, Pisa's tilt might appear more pronounced, even after being straightened slightly, because it's taller. It leans 13 feet off center when measured from the top, at a height of 55.86 meters (a fraction over 183 feet). Meanwhile, Bedum's tower leans 8-1/2 feet on its height of 35.7 meters (117-1/4 feet). Ah, but if the 12th-century towers were the same height, Van Dijk claims, Bedum's tilt, measured laterally, would be 6 centimeters (or about 2 inches) more than Pisa's. Thus folks in Bedum can claim that their tower is Europe's most cockeyed. And, by all accounts, the Dutch are happy to keep it that way. At least, there are no known plans to prevent it from collapsing. Don't be surprised, though, if it becomes the centerpiece of a new campaign to attract tourists.

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