James Stout, Ph. D is a historian of anti fascism in sport and runs a nonprofit that uses exercise to empower Indigenous people to live healthier and happier lives. He was born in the U.K. and lives in California.
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It hasn’t been a great past few weeks for statues.
From Bristol, England to Birmingham, Alabama, people all over the world have been grappling with the legacy of racism by tossing their grappling hooks around the heads of problematic monuments.
Should you happen to find yourself near a statue that you decide you no longer like, we asked scientists for the best, safest ways to bring it to the ground without anyone getting hurt—except, of course, for the inanimate racist who’s been dead for a century anyway.
There are two main approaches, says author James Stout,
The Physical Approach – The force required to pull down a statue isn’t as great as you think, says mechanical engineer Scott Holland. Most statues are bronze, using an alloy of 90 percent copper and 10 percent tin and a maximum thickness of 3/16 of an inch. The Statue of Liberty’s copper sheeting is only 3/32 of an inch thick, for comparison.
- The Chemical Approach – Maybe you’re operating with an even smaller team—or toppling the statue all by yourself. In that case, your best bet is melting the damn thing. So let’s make a thermite reaction.
“The formula is very simple,” says Chris Harrison, a chemistry professor at San Diego State University. “It’s 3:1 by mass of rust and aluminum powder. You mix those together and use a piece of magnesium to use as a high temperature fuse. And if you don’t have one, you could use a sparkler.”