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Towers of Babel and What’s a Cubit?

Burj Dubai is close to being complete. It will be the world’s tallest building (although some debate how to evaluate that title). So is it a Tower of Babel? Depends on who you ask? As a matter of hubris or monument’s to humanity’s glory, maybe so. After all even the wealthy world of Dubai is having real estate problems. Even if it is not some cosmic moment of vanity, the Burj Dubai is only around a half mile tall (they won’t give the exact height). Only? Well, yes, only. According to Wikipedia, the Tower of Babel may have been only “463 cubits (696 feet or 212 meters)” or by some estimates “5433 cubits and 2 palms, or nearly 2.5 kilometers (about 1.55 miles)” or “4,000 paces high (5,920 m (19,423 ft)) and 1,000 paces thick, and each pace is three of our feet” or “5164 paces high, about 7.6 kilometers” or “7000 feet or 2 kilometres.” So no one seems to know exactly how tall the Tower was, but almost everyone seems to think we have a long way to go until we reach the Tower’s height.

Still, to riff a little: “5433 cubits high? Right. What’s a cubit?” See below for a discussion about another public works project of the ancient era. And if you don’t know/have the routine, buy it. Seriously, it is brilliant.

For those who want to see the building the ABC story has a good video.