We live in a world filled with more wondrous things than can be experienced in a single lifetime. Luckily for those of us with a natural aversion to sunlight, some of those things have been constructed inside gigantic buildings, by people with a burning desire to one-up nature. We're talking about things such as ...
Welcome to Super-Kamiokande, a gigantic subterranean water chamber built in Japan to detect neutrinos. What the hell are neutrinos? Well, they're subatomic particles that physicists believe are constantly zipping around the universe. Since they don't interact with other matter, they just pass right through whatever they come into contact with -- neutrinos emitted from the sun are passing through the Earth as we speak. Hell, one just went through your left eyeball and straight out the back of your head, probably. Did it itch?
So, what the hell does that have to do with this?
Univ. of Tokyo
Both make you scratch your eyes?
Well, the problem with detecting neutrinos is just what we said: They generally don't interact with other matter. One exception to that is water -- when a neutrino smacks into a water molecule, it gives off a tiny flash of light. In fact, the light is so tiny that, in order to detect it, you need a chamber capable of holding 50,000 tons of purified water and lined with myriad photomultiplier tubes. The result looks like a stage lighting system designed by Spinal Tap and assembled by Stanley Kubrick.
Univ. of Tokyo
It's so friggin' bright that it will make you see space babies.
That's not the only problem, however. Since the effects researchers are trying to observe are so very infinitesimal, they're often overpowered by cosmic rays and other such interference. To combat this, the detector is located more than a half-mile below ground. That didn't protect it from itself, though: Back in 2001, the pressure from all of that water caused one of the photomultiplier tubes to implode, setting off the most expensive chain reaction this side of the Death Star.
Super-Kamiokande was soon patched up, and, although it proved the existence of neutrino mass way back in 1998, it's still being used to research the history and evolution of the universe to this day. Or, all of this neutrino nonsense is an elaborate front, and this thing is really used to open a portal to some hell dimension. Guess we'll find out eventually.
Just a stone's throw from the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, stands the world's largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall. It has everything you would expect a mall to have. Stores? Well, yeah -- it wouldn't exactly be a mall without at least 1,200 of those. A food court? Sure -- it's got enough food to feed a small country (or one family on a TLC reality show). It also houses a five-star hotel, which, in turn, has its own spa and five restaurants. It's when you move beyond the obvious mall stuff that this place begins to get downright ludicrous.
Please do not tap on the glass (or you will flood the entire Middle East).
There's also an aquarium so big that it "holds the Guinness World Record for largest acrylic panel." There's a water fountain show that can be seen from more than 20 miles away. There's an amusement park inside the mall, as well as a full-sized Olympic ice hockey rink.
Dubai is now more equipped to host the Winter Olympics than Russia.
The mall even has its own "resident dinosaur" -- a fully legit 155-million-year-old skeleton of a Diplodocus because why the ever-loving fuck not?
They shipped it in from Wyoming. No shit.
In total, Dubai Mall encompasses 12 million square feet -- that's more than twice the size of Vatican City. And the most insane part? There are plans to expand it because it's simply not goddamn big enough, yet. The first phase of the expansion is already underway, with the second phase reportedly involving an actual, live dinosaur to terrorize visitors who don't spend enough.
Imagine you're standing in 2011 Japan, surveying the devastation left in the wake of the tsunami. What would you do? We know what we would do: We would fill our drawers with a relentless stream of liquid terror poo. Shigeharu Shimamura, on the other hand, is apparently immune to such humanly fears. Instead, he surveyed what looked like the aftermath of a vengeful god dick-slapping a Sony semiconductor factory and said, "Yep, I can use that to solve world hunger."
So, his company Mirai Industry Co., Ltd. transformed the factory into the world's largest indoor farm, and, according to the figures, they're off to a damn good start: It's 100 times more productive than traditional dirt farming, uses 40 percent less electricity, 99 percent less water, and wastes 80 percent less food.
And it's 200 percent more rave-worthy.
The farm's LED lights are a shade of fuchsia best described as "violent," which tricks the plants into optimizing their day/night cycles for the optimal rate of photosynthesis (that's science-speak for "it makes stuff grow real fast"). There are 17,500 of these high-tech lights in the farm's 25,000 square feet of garden beds. Shimamura and his company assure us that eating something that's been this aggressively pinked will not, in fact, transform us into a race of Hello Kitties.
Continuing with our numbers theme, the farm yields a massive 10,000 heads of lettuce every day, allowing a single installation like this to comfortably feed a small nation (if said nation consists of rabbits). It's also pesticide -- and bacteria -- free, which explains why the workers appear to have stepped straight out of The Stand.
That, and to protect them from the spit of mutant plants.
Similar farms have been built by Mirai in Mongolia, and more are planned in Russia and Hong Kong. So, while they haven't saved the world yet, the future's at least looking bright for our BLTs.
"That section over there is for our bacon plant expansion."
If this cavernous underground reservoir looks like something out of a video game, that's because it is. It was featured in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, as well as in the movies From Russia With Love and The International, and Dan Brown's novel Inferno. And it's not hard to see why.
It's also a perfect wedding spot, if you don't mind getting hitched in hip waders.
Built in A.D. 532 to store water for the Great Palace in Istanbul (still Constantinople back then), the cistern was largely forgotten about -- you know, as tends to happen with a 2.4-acre underground palace capable of holding more than 21 million gallons of water. Frenchman Peter Gyllius rediscovered it in 1545, after watching locals retrieve water through holes in their basement floors by lowering buckets through them. Sometimes, the buckets even returned bearing carp, which the locals presumably thought were gifts from the well fairies.
It's an actual, honest-to-goodness wishing well ... if all you wish for is carp.
The fish are still there today, freely flopping among the hundreds of giant stone columns. And, speaking of the columns, two of them are propped atop intricate Roman carvings of the head of Medusa. One is positioned sideways, and the other is upside-down, possibly to prevent Medusa's glare from turning unwary visitors to stone -- or possibly because the Byzantines viewed Roman masterworks as little more than fancy cinder blocks. It's also entirely possible that no one's yet figured out which item from their inventory to use to spin them right-side up and unlock a secret passage to an ancient Byzantine treasure hoard.
Those gajillions of glittering things aren't sequins, though. The interior walls are lined with scads upon scads of intricate mosaic mirrors and colored glass to create complex designs in silver and green, giving visitors the illusion of having stepped inside a massive emerald geode. We're assuming tours are accompanied by an infinitely repeating announcement that flash photography is strictly forbidden because the chain reaction set off by the flash would be like opening the Ark of the Covenant.
On the plus side, the mosaics make mirror selfies virtually impossible.
The mosque is an example of traditional Persian mosaic art, although that's sort of like saying Leonardo da Vinci was a bit of a sketch artist. Apparently Amir Ahmad and his brother Mir Muhammad, important figures in Shia Islam, are entombed here, but we're not sure how anyone ever manages to pay their respects when, hey, look up there!
The dome proves it's possible to be literally blinded by beauty.
Shah Cheragh became an important pilgrimage site in the 14th century, when a queen by the name of Tashi Khatun decided to revamp the place and make it truly worthy of its dazzling name. Well, mission friggin' accomplished, Your Majesty.
At the Hotel Terme Millepini in Italy, you'll find the world's deepest indoor swimming pool. It's 40 meters (130 feet) deep -- that's as deep as a 12-story building is high. When we were kids, we would have believed that digging a hole that deep and dumping it full of water would have either flooded China or pissed off some unspeakable eldritch horror from the Earth's core.
Padi Diving School
This was taken moments before giant tentacles reached up and snatched her into the abyss.
The pool contains more than 150,000 cubic feet of thermal spa water, maintained at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so divers can play Aquaman to their hearts' content -- no wetsuit required (green tights, however, are highly encouraged). It's alternately referred to as Y-40 or "The Deep Joy," which sounds like something you'd find in a display case at that questionable "bookstore" downtown.
The Deep Joy also features underwater caves and viewing panels for non-swimmers, and is used for leisure dives, dive training, and underwater photo shoots.
"Look at this stuff. Isn't it neat?"
Coming in a close second is Belgium's Nemo 33. As its name implies, it's 33 meters (108 feet) deep, and it contains 2.5 million liters of highly filtered spring water and probably, like, 3 percent pee, tops (depending on just how far into its depths you decide to brave, of course).
"Oh yeah, it's like swimming in a porta-potty down here."
Nemo 33 features several underwater caves, as well as air-filled dive bells that allow instructors to talk to students without returning to the surface. In addition to providing untold bragging rights, the pool is used for film productions, military training exercises, underwater research laboratories, and even astronaut training.
In space, no one can feel the warm spot you just made.
Back in the early 2000s, German entrepreneur Carl von Gablenz, evidently a huge steampunk fan, was determined to make airships a thing. It was a dream that was destined to go the way of the Hindenburg, but not before his company constructed an unfathomably ginormous airship hangar just south of Berlin. Thanks to less-than-buoyant financials, the company was forced to sell off the hangar in 2002.
So why does an assumably airship-less company purchase the "world's largest free-standing building"? Why, to recreate the tropics -- indoors -- right smack-dab in the middle of Europe, of course.
"We keep an abandoned plane out front for you to sit in for 11 hours -- if you want the real vacation experience."
Tropical Islands is "Europe's largest tropical holiday world." So, just how much stuff can fit inside a structure built to house a floating metal whale? Well, they could put the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower or Berlin's Potsdamer Platz in there if they wanted to, but, instead, they stuffed it full with an indoor beach, a lagoon, a 100,000-square-foot rain forest, a mini-golf course, two flavors of accommodation lodges ("adventure" and "premium"), a 450-foot screen to simulate sunrises and sunsets, and an apparent lack of proper security measures.
It even has its own theme song, disappointingly not performed by David Hasselhoff:
The shopping boulevard (because of course there's a shopping boulevard) features a hair salon, tanning beds (just because you're indoors shouldn't mean you can't work on that nice melanoma you've been developing), an airbrush tattoo parlor and Europe's biggest spa. The "tropical sea," which is the size of three Olympic swimming pools, hosted the first German Bathtub Racing Championship, which we never knew existed but are now desperate to see.
Staying somewhat true to the building's original purpose, you can even go hot air ballooning. Again, indoors.
Because how else are you supposed to get from one end to the other?
Laura H compulsively buys notebooks the way some women buy shoes. Follow her on Twitter.
For more incredible creations, check out 7 Awesome Buildings That Look Like They're Designed by Kids and 4 Buildings That Defy the Laws of Gravity.
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