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Welcome to the genius world of monster engineering!
Each show, we're going to introduce you to three geniuses...
..whose ideas have quite literally built the world.
-We put all their epic brilliance...
-..to the test...
-Hit it, hit it!
..when we tackle our own genius monster build.
Don't you dare demolish this!
Why is it swinging?!
All in the name of science.
That is a massive piece of construction.
What could possibly go wrong?
And on this show,
things are getting wet...
..and seriously bumpy!
As we find out what it takes to battle nature.
This is Absolute Genius!
The awesome power of the elements.
They push engineering to its absolute limits.
And resulted in some truly genius monster builds.
I'm freezing here!
Hold tight, cos today's show is all about battling nature.
Right, you can turn it off now, lads!
Right, that's it, we're going for a cup of tea.
From tsunamis to tornadoes,
we've always faced threats from the elements.
For centuries, our greatest minds have thought of amazing ways
to build structures that protect us from these disasters.
And these days, when a natural disaster strikes,
it doesn't necessarily mean everything gets destroyed.
And it's all thanks to some seriously genius engineering.
In your face, Mother Nature!
This is the Netherlands.
In fact, about half of the land here
is less than one metre above sea-level!
Throughout history, the country has faced
the constant threat of serious flooding.
And serious floods risk homes, jobs and even lives.
But in recent times,
some genius engineering has helped keep the Dutch dry.
And of course, there's only one way for us to get there!
This massive barrier is part of the Delta Works.
It's one of the biggest flood prevention projects in the world.
Without it, a huge area of land could be under the sea.
And it's all thanks to our first genius.
Johan van Veen.
"I'm not good on the water!"
Yeah, I know how you feel, mate.
Oh, what a relief. Back on dry land.
Dutch water expert and genius helper Eric Van Der Weegen
is waiting to tell us more about van Veen's genius creation.
Behind us is seriously a genius monster build.
It's astronomical in size.
But why is it here?
In 1953, the water from the North Sea
was coming inside the Eastern Scheldt.
On that side is Holland, and a lot of people died then.
So in Holland, there were houses destroyed,
people died, absolute devastation?
Yes, it was terrible.
And then the government in Holland said
that it must happen, never again.
That where van Veen comes into this?
Yes. Johan van Veen, he said,
"I have a plan to make the coast shorter.
Van Veen's plan was called the Delta Works.
It's made up of a network of 13 dams, dykes and storm barriers,
laid out along the Dutch coast.
Together, they keep the sea where it belongs.
You know, out at sea.
At almost four miles long, the Oosterschelde,
or Eastern Shield,
is the largest of these flood defences.
Right, and now we're near the barrier, you can see how big it is.
But how does it work?
When the water level is expected
more than three metres above sea level,
then we close the gates.
-So these hydraulics push down this gate?
So this whole steel wall disappears completely underwater?
Underwater, yes. Most of the barrier is underwater.
You stand here on a big building.
It's five storeys high.
The size of this place is staggering!
But what about the science?
How does it work? We're going to need some help!
Meet Fran. Our scientist friend...
-..who can explain things in a way that even we can understand.
It works, Franny!
She loves a good experiment!
And best of all, she pops up...
..whenever we need her.
Right, we need to get back to the UK to see Fran.
Yeah. Ron, how much to get back to the UK?
-How much you got?
-How much have we got?
-We'll talk about that on the boat.
-Right, start the engine.
-You two look a bit...
-Windswept's the word.
We've just been to see flood defence barriers.
They were incredible, Fran!
-You missed out.
-I know, but do you know how they work?
-Well, to build something that can withstand the push of the
sea, you need to know where that push comes from.
-The thing is, the push that water has on objects is all down to
-Bear with me.
-They've only just finished school.
-It's like being back in maths.
-Using science words.
-Acceleration. So force...
-It's just the amount of push that water has.
And that equals mass, that's how much water you've got,
So that's not how fast the water's going,
but how much it's changing speed.
Right, the problem is, Fran.
-We don't understand what you're talking about.
Ah! Well, I thought you wouldn't using this.
-So we're going to do it Fran style.
-Come with me! Come on!
Fran, we expected something a bit more high energy.
This is all tranquil and lovely and floaty.
It is. It's all very calming.
And it should be calming, because this water isn't flowing very fast.
Which means that when it's hitting our kayak,
which it's doing all the time, it's not changing its speed much.
Which means the water isn't pushing on us with much force.
Oh, I see. So the more water changes its speed, the greater the push.
Exactly! So if we were to go somewhere where the water
is flowing faster to begin with,
then it might be a little bit of a different story.
What do you mean? Where's faster?
To help us understand her equation,
Fran is making us paddle against the flow of these rapids.
Fran, this is not very tranquil and lovely!
And it's harder than it looks, OK?
And one of the reasons it's not so tranquil is because that water's
flowing faster, which means when it hits your kayak,
it's changing its speed so much more.
Which means it's pushing on you with much more force.
I see. So the more the water changes speed, the more push it has!
-See you, Fran!
There you are, Fran. That was harder, much harder,
than just gliding around on the lake back there.
Exactly. That's why when engineers were building Van Veen's
idea of that flood defence system...
It was my idea.
It was, and it still is, actually.
But that's why when engineers were building the Eastern barrier,
they had to build it out of steel that was five metres thick
with each gate weighing up to 500 tonnes.
Got it. So they had to be strong so when the water pushed against them,
-they didn't fall over.
-Exactly, so they could protect the land
Back in the Netherlands,
this massive storm surge barrier is still keeping the Dutch dry.
Isn't it mind-blowing to think that one man's sheer genius has held back
the power of the sea?
And prevented the Netherlands from flooding again.
Nice one, Van Veen, old bean.
I want to make a sand castle!
All right, buckets and spades. Come on!
I want an ice cream!
In nature, flooding isn't the only thing that tests genius engineering.
No, there's also another type of weather that's a really big problem.
You might be able to tell what it is right now. It's wind!
And here's the man responsible for protecting tall buildings
-against it. Mr Christopher...
Storm force winds can have a devastating impact
on towns and cities.
But it doesn't always take a hurricane to bring a building down.
This is the Emley Moor television mast in Yorkshire.
In the 1960s, just a few years after it was opened, the tower collapsed.
Partly due to the effects of something called vortex shedding.
That's when air forms into a swirling pocket behind a structure,
making it unstable.
Thanks to Christopher Scruton's genius,
this massive tower is well and truly windproofed.
And to find out more, let's go up it!
And to get us up to the top of the tower, it's Mark Steele.
-How are you doing, all right?
-I'm great, thank you. Welcome to Emley Moor.
-Let's go up.
And there's only one way up.
It's very cramped and it takes seven minutes.
I'm going to time it. From the word go. Look.
Six minutes 59. Spot on.
Welcome to Emley Moor, guys.
I'm holding on to things.
Whoa! Hold on a minute, you can feel it moving!
-You really can.
-Like a ship.
Even on a calm day, this high up, the tower wobbles around.
So, can you imagine what it's like during a storm?
-Is that normal?
-It is perfectly normal.
-You do get some movement on the tower.
How high up are we now?
We're just under 300 metres high.
300 metres. That's taller than the Eiffel Tower.
Taller than the Eiffel, right absolutely.
In fact, at 330 metres,
this tower is the tallest freestanding structure in the UK.
-You go first.
-No, I'm not going first.
-No, cos then I'll be here to save you if you fall.
No, cos I'll...you go first.
And right at the tip-top-tippity-top,
you'll find Christopher Scruton's genius idea.
Look at that! It's high.
-Come on, pop out.
-Oh, come on, get out!
I'll watch it back on the television.
Don't be such a wimp, Dick!
So, what is that up there? They've got the big white bit above us.
-Well, that's our big antenna.
Oh, that's the actual antenna?
-That's the antenna.
-Wow, that's amazing.
And that's helping the TV and radio go out from Emley Moor.
That's incredible! And then on top of that, there's a kind of screw thing. What's that?
Right, that's the helical strake, and that helps us deal with
the wind at the top.
OK. Can you tell us more about that?
We need a structural engineer to do that.
An engineer? Ah, I think there might be just the person downstairs.
Now, in case you haven't noticed, we're not scientists.
So, it's a good job we have superstar engineer Yewande
to call on when structures get us scratching our heads.
-You all right? You OK?
-Oh, it was high.
What's a helical strake?
A helical strake?
Yes. A helical strake.
Look, just get down here, Wande's going to explain it all. All right?
Right, I'm coming down.
See you in a bit.
I'd hate to think what happens when this lift's out of order.
-I've seen a helical strake.
-Right on top of the building.
Obviously, it's doing something.
What would happen if it wasn't there?
Imagine these steel poles are massive towers and the air
from this fan is the wind.
Air flowing around a curved surface forms what
you call vortices, and they're pretty much like spirals.
They just keep on going round and round and round and round -
and could cause wobble.
So that, in a building, for example, or in a structure,
would cause fatigue, cracks and stresses.
And, eventually, it could make a...
-It's going to crumble.
-It could make it just collapse.
And with the helical strake on it, that won't happen, no?
With this sort of spiral coil,
the air flowing towards the pole is broken up.
So, it doesn't have the vortices forming at the back of it.
Which, in effect, means a lot less wobbling.
It's almost like working like an invisible force field
-all around the building.
So, that was Christopher Scruton's genius.
I couldn't have put it better myself!
Thanks to Scruton's genius idea,
the mast at Emley Moor to this day still stands strong.
Still to come...
We pit ourselves against the power of the wind...
..in our very own genius monster build!
But now, it's time for some random genius-nessss!
This unusually-shaped house in Florida is designed to withstand
winds of up to 150mph.
There's no place like dome.
No need to worry about flooding if you live in one of these
floating Dutch homes.
Don't forget your wellies!
Want to build one of the world's tallest buildings
in an earthquake zone?
Then you'll need one of these.
A giant gold football?
No! A 730-tonne counterweight that offsets any movement
in the building.
We've seen how wind and waves can smash buildings to bits.
Our final engineering challenge comes from down there in the earth.
Welcome to San Francisco, on America's West Coast.
It's an amazing place,
but it's also one of the most earthquake-prone on the planet.
It sits on the San Andreas fault,
which is the meeting point between two parts of the Earth's crust.
In 1906, roughly 80% of the city was destroyed by a big earthquake.
Another struck as recently as 1989.
No-one can say for sure when another earthquake might happen,
but the city and its buildings need to be prepared.
This is City Hall,
one of the most earthquake-proof buildings in San Francisco.
And it's all thanks to the genius of Bill Robinson.
That's me, fellas.
Earthquake engineering expert Konrad Eriksen is here to tell us
more about Bill Robinson's big idea.
What a building the City Hall is.
I mean, look at the architecture.
But what happened to this building in '89?
The '89 earthquake caused enough damage that the building couldn't
be occupied any more.
And in fact, the whole dome was separated in the earthquake
and almost fell in.
What, the top was all cracked off?
Yes. I was actually up there in 1994,
and you could see daylight all the way through
round the circumference of the dome.
The secret of why this building is now ready for the next
big earthquake lies underground.
And that's exactly where Konrad is taking us.
Ey? In here?
Under here, let me show you.
Look! A proper trap door!
Going down again.
Yeah, I'm in. That's it, we're not coming back out again.
We're now in the crawl space under the building,
home to Robinson's genius idea, the lead rubber bearing.
OK, stop mucking around.
And up! That's it.
-Oh, is that one of them?
This is a lead rubber bearing.
Behind there is a rubber bearing with a lead core inside it.
Right, OK. And how many of them are there under this building?
What? Of them!
Explain exactly what's going on underneath the silver surface.
In an earthquake, it works like suspension for the building.
-So, the ground can move under the building without
that motion being transmitted up into the structure.
Right, so you've put this massive suspension system in underneath.
But why lead and rubber?
Well, the rubber component gives it a springiness,
so it's like your shock-absorbers on your car.
-And the lead core dissipates the energy,
so it's like the shock-absorber soaking up the energy
from the bumps.
Conrad has given us the lowdown on Bill Robinson's big idea.
But there's no earthquake here today,
so we need to head somewhere we can put Robinson's genius to the test.
Come on, guys.
Let's hit the road.
The Nevada desert.
Right, we've got two buggies here.
This one has got good suspension.
Brand-new, brilliant suspension.
That one has not.
-Heads or tails?
-You're driving, all right.
-Let's hat up.
What we're going to do is drive this car whilst holding this,
to see how much water there is left in it at the end of the journey.
-Then we're going to drive that one,
and see if there's any more or less water left.
Let's find out what it's like when we get back.
The suspension on this buggy is designed to soak up all the bumps
on this desert course.
Look at that.
The shock-absorbers are doing their job. I've not spilt a drop!
Well, maybe A drop.
This is good!
Look at that!
Not bad at all!
Considering we went over loads of bumps, we've lost about,
I don't know, five centimetres of water.
-I need windscreen wipers on my goggles.
So, the shock absorbers have worked, and stopped us getting all shook up.
It's exactly how the building fitted with Bill Robinson's lead rubber
bearings would behave in an earthquake.
Now it's time to put the buggy with the dodgy suspension
through its paces.
Let's do it! Aggggh!
Gah! I'm soaking!
Mind the bumps!
We're getting really soggy.
Well, I think it's pretty conclusive that suspension
makes a massive difference.
Yeah, and when it comes to buildings surviving earthquakes,
Bill Robinson, you are an absolute genius.
Yeah. Has anybody got a towel?
We've seen how some truly genius engineering...
..has produced structures...
This is a lead rubber bearing.
..capable of fighting back at nature.
Our three geniuses have all used their skills
to tame the power of nature.
Yeah, and now it's our turn to build something to battle the elements.
Hold on tight, because it is about to get windy.
Have you been in my veggie sausages again?
-Not that windy.
Welcome to one of the world's top aerodynamic wind tunnels.
These giant fans suck in air,
and are capable of generating wind speeds of up to 80 miles an hour -
the same as a category one hurricane.
Our old pal Grant Cooper is here.
Grant's helped us with loads of builds in the past,
and he's about to do it again!
Today, he's lined up an engineering challenge that will see us go
head-to-head with the raw power of the wind.
So, today, you're going to be building a structure to protect
you guys from the wind. But, the longer it takes you guys
to build it, the higher the wind speed will be.
So, hang on a minute.
We're not building it first, then the fan comes on,
we're trying to build it as we're getting hit by all this air?
Exactly. So you'll be taking individual pieces,
kind of like a jigsaw, slotting them onto a metal frame to build up the wall.
OK. And what's this structure going to look like?
So, it's built like an arrowhead.
So, a nice pointy profile at the front.
Architects and engineers use this when designing buildings
so that they can control the air-flow around the buildings.
So the wind's not going to be hitting a flat wall.
Grant, how are we going to put it together?
I've got some plans for you there.
And there's an anemometer there to measure the wind speed.
So, don't forget, the longer you take to build it,
the higher the wind speed will be.
So, keep an eye on that, and get building.
OK. So, what are you doing?
-Cranking up the wind.
-Ah! Challenge on.
Here's how it's going to work.
We've been given a plan for a three-dimensional shape
which is specially designed to deflect wind.
The only problem is, it's in pieces.
Pieces which we're going to have to slot together perfectly
for it to do its job.
And it's going to be windy.
Any slip-ups, and we'll be left with a structure that won't make
any difference whatsoever to the power of the wind,
sending both us and a table full of our favourite things flying.
These are our treasured possessions,
which we're hoping the wall will protect from the wind.
One of his mum's vases.
Look, we've also got some of our stuff from a TV show
from about 28 years ago.
Look, look. We've got board games, we've got annuals.
-This is Arthur.
Arthur. Now, whatever we do, we cannot hurt Arthur, OK.
Everything is ready.
We just need some wind.
Start them up!
Hopefully, the possessions will stay where they are. Right, let's start.
-Find the red.
The book's gone!
Right, all the way to the bottom. Go!
Up a bit, up a bit.
Where's the teddy? Where's Arthur?
We've lost Arthur!
Windy in here, innit?
Trying to blow that off. Yes.
That's just a normal, everyday breeze,
enough to move small branches on a tree.
Going well so far. Everything's safe.
Clearly not enough to satisfy Grant
in the comfort of the control room.
Can you crank it up a bit more?
Do you know if that's right?
The wind's now at 26mph.
Getting higher. The book!
Things are starting to get really tricky.
But Grant is just getting warmed up.
Let's crank it up.
Agh! All the cards!
Yeah, they're struggling now.
Will our wall stand up to the rapidly increasing
force of the wind?
You can't even push
the bits of wood towards the wall any more.
We try to lift it high in the air.
You just can't push it. The wind's pushing so hard on the wood.
We're nearly safe, we're nearly safe.
Look at that! Nearly 35mph!
No wonder we can't move these bits about.
That's gale force.
Enough to set whole trees swaying, or to create very rough seas.
That's it! The final piece.
But has our wall worked?
Ah, look, we're protected!
Look at the anemometer.
Dick and Dom one, wind nil.
With the help of our three geniuses, we've been able to keep homes,
schools and offices safe -
whatever the conditions.
Johan van Veen,
and Bill Robinson, you're all absolute genius.
And I think it's safe to say that we're your biggest...
-No, no, don't do that.
-No, but we're your biggest f...
-No, no, not that.
You're not too bad yourselves, boys.
He's loving it.
I hate it!
Dick and Dom go head to head with the fiercest forces in nature as they enter the genius world of engineering against floods, wind and earthquakes. They head to the Netherlands to see how one of the world's great coastal defences keeps the sea at bay, find a suitably hair-raising method to put earthquake proofing to the test and tackle gale-force winds in their bid to storm-proof their most precious possessions.