JF Ptak Science Books Post 2145
When Nimrod set out to build his tower to the heavens (Genesis 10,11, amidst much begating and living to 207 years) he evidently did not consider the physical aspects of the structure and its impact upon its surroundings. The great and problematic Athanasius Kircher, the vastly learned and nimble and creative Jesuit scholar, did, and considered the tower of Babel in the last book printed during his lifetime, and found that there were certain problems associated with such a structure. (The semi-mystifying polymath Kircher (1602-1680) lived for a long time and filled his life with ideas and words, producing dozens of books during his time on Earth, some of which were never published even though written, some manuscripts lost forever. His was a massive output of extraordinary breadth, most of which was original to him, and a lot of which was original to others and not credited, as was often the case with some scholarship at this time in history. He wasted little time what I can see, writing on a spectacular range of subjects, enlightening people, confusing people, generating great theories and some bad ideas.)
Kircher considered the possibilities and necessaries of such a structure (in Turris Babel..., Amsterdam, 1679) and found in his investigations that the 178,000 miles-high building would be so massively heavy (3 million tons) that it would displace the Earth from its orbit:
"to reach the Moon, the tower would have to be 178,672 miles high, comprised of over three million tons of matter. The uneven distribution of the Earth's mass would tip the balance of the planet and move it from its position at the center of the universe, resulting in a cataclysmic disruption in the order of nature."--nicely described on the Museum of Jurassic Technology, here.
It was a nice piece of reasoning that didn't extend itself to very many other stories of the Bible--Kircher was not concerned with disproving scriptural elements, just the foolishness of Nimrod to attempt such a feat, and was mostly interested in language than anything else in his short last book.
- The full title of the book: Turris Babel, Sive Archontologia Qua Primo Priscorum post diluvium hominum vita, mores rerumque gestarum magnitudo, Secundo Turris fabrica civitatumque exstructio, confusio linguarum, & inde gentium transmigrationis, cum principalium inde enatorum idiomatum historia, multiplici eruditione describuntur & explicantur. Amstelodami, Jansson-Waesberge 1679
[Source: NYPL Digital Collections, here.]
The frontispiece (I believe, and not the title page) to the book shows the architect and supporters at work, with the Creator pretty-well present: (via University of Heidelberg Library, with the book available full-text, here):