Skyscraper melting cars: How a London building is creating a flaming death ray
Skyscraper melting cars: A new skyscraper in London's financial center is melting parts of cars and setting carpets on fire, locals report.
London isn't famous for hot weather, but that may change soon, and not because of global warming: The design of a new skyscraper in the city is melting cars and setting buildings on fire.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's absolutely ruined," Martin Lindsay told the BBC, referring to his Jaguar XJ. Lindsay had the misfortune of parking his luxury car across the street from the office building for an hour; the Jaguar now has melted panels, mirrors and other parts. "You can't believe something like this would happen. They've got to do something about it."
Local shopkeepers have complained about carpets catching fire and smoldering front doors. A restaurant owner told London news site City A.M. that slate tiles on his doorstep had shattered in the heat. [Spooky! Top 10 Unexplained Phenomena]
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The building — designed by internationally renowned architect Rafael Viñoly — is a dramatic edifice with curved exterior walls. Built at 20 Fenchurch Street in London's financial center, the 38-story skyscraper is known locally as "the Walkie-Talkie" for its unusual shape.
But that curvilinear shape is exactly what's causing the problem: The south-facing exterior wall is covered in reflective glass, and because it's concave, it focuses the sun's rays onto a small area, not unlike the way a magnifying glass directs sunbeams onto a superhot pinpoint of light.
James Keaveney of the University of Durham's Atomic and Molecular Physics department told City A.M. that the inward curve of the wall is an inherent flaw in the building's design. "It's a concave shape, so it's going to have a focusing effect on the light that is reflected from it."
That same concave shape has been used in the design of solar power plants. A solar dish in New Mexico contains 82 mirrors that focus sunlight onto an engine that contains hydrogen. As the gas expands and contracts from heating and cooling, that motion drives pistons that power a generator that creates electricity.