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Researchers Made 25-Ton Boulders They Can Move by Hand (gizmodo.com)
144 points by mcenedella 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

This guy seems to be way ahead of MIT on this one. He moved a barn (which wasn't a specially 3D printed shape) 300 ft on his own.


I have a 2 ton cement block which we leave out in the fields with our goats, and they play on it. We had to move it once to change where some fences ran, and I had nobody to help. So I just jacked it up then knocked over the jack a few times, and it was moved.

I've since come to the conclusion that when you mix simple tools with a bit of brainpower, you can accomplish far more than people would ever believe.

This man is a legend. He should publish, damn. I wonder what knowledge only exists in the minds of people who just thought to solve their own problems.

Don't you see that youtube video, he did publish.

Right, I hear your point, but we have a interdisciplinary discovery problem. No one studying the history of the Moai saw it.

Once it goes viral ;-)

How did he build the shoring blocks?

How does he get the pebble underneath a large block initially?

How will get the horizontal stones across the top lifted and pivoted into place?

On his website (now only available via Internet Archive), he claims to have used the same Herodotus machine to raise and place the lintel as he did for raising the initial supports:


I imagine once he'd gotten the supports placed, he could just raise the lintel between them with the machine, perpendicular to its final resting position, then rotate it into place.

To get an initial fulcrum under a stone, it looks like he built a wrench-shaped wood frame, essentially attaching a long lever handle to the stone. One can be seen in the second picture on this page:


Things like the very artistic cave paintings and rock sculptures are fascinating. Or monuments. People haven't really evolved that much during the last ten thousand years. It's just some hundreds of generations. We might have more accumulated knowledge and tools now, but people were just the same back then too.

I wish the website any clear information at all about how he moved the blocks (or the barn?!). Is he just lifting and then sliding them? Would appreciate more information if someone knows where to find it.

He explains how he does lateral movement at 1:21 in the video. He's lifting the block enough to get an off-center pivot under it. Once the block is on a pivot, he rotates it 180 degrees, then tilts it onto a new pivot and repeats. Because the pivots are off-center, each rotation moves the center of the block a little bit in the desired direction.

At 2:08, they show the counterweights and one of the pivots he used for moving the barn. (It's a "pole barn", so it has no concrete foundation. His webpage says they had to add about 50% of its weight again in reinforcement so that it would hold its shape when moved this way.)

Wally Wallington

Even when you know his name finding him isn't easy.

Incredible. Thanks for sharing

The ingenuity is indeed incredible especially since it relies on such simple principles. But I have to wonder how useful is that transportation technique when carrying the stones over dirt paths instead of a very solid, perfectly flat concrete one.

In the video they show him moving a large shed over a dirt path.

He used a pivot sitting on top of wooden shoring boards, I can imagine the process for any weight would be similar.

As someone who's spent plenty of time moving machines with pry bars and rollers I content it's not the shape of the boulders but the flat and level floor that really enables this feat.

In order to move something of a given weight against earth's gravity you need to expend a certain amount of energy to do that work. There is no way of getting around that because physics. While few people could theoretically move a boulder up a hill it would be very, very challenging to do without additional sources of energy.

Yup. Now look at the rock walls of New England which snake up hillsides and mountains. A crazy amount of energy was needed.


> In 1871 the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a “Statistics of Fences In the United States.” At that time, it noted that in New England and New York State alone, there were 252,539 miles of stone walls, enough to circle the globe ten times, and to build all the pyramids of Egypt times one hundred. It has been calculated that such an effort would have required an army of 15,000 workers 243 years to accomplish.

When you are trying to harvest crops on a series of glacial moraines, stones dropped by glaciers and brought to the surface by each winter's freeze/thaw cycles are the most reliable annual crop. :-)

In spring, after thaw, but before the ground is dry enough to till and plant, some levers, a ground level sledge or "stone boat", and draft animal(s) to pull it will get the stones to the edge of the field. Making a more tidy "dry" or unmortared stone wall from them is optional.

CEMEX has been doing very clever things for a long time. I love the random distribution of cement trucks they maintained in the 90's do deal with the complexity of delivering cement. https://www.wired.com/1997/07/cemex-2/

There’s a famous paper in chaos theory by two Czech researchers studying the distribution of bus waiting times in Guadalajara. I never made the connection until now.

Check out who funded the project ;)

Perhaps, you could just tell us?

Cemex funded/contributed to this MIT project which you would have learned from reading the article we're supposedly commenting on

Your comment isn’t helpful - can you provide details or a citation?

There is no denying that this is cool and there are definitely modern day applications. However there is also no evidence that ancient people did this. There are plenty of ancient structures constructed of massive stones without beveled edges. Ten years ago there were a couple of guys who figured out how to use giant kites to move large blocks of stone, said that was one way the Egyptians could have built the pyramids. Great, but only problem with that is there are no records of the Egyptians building giant kites, so again kinda cool and probably a great source of fail videos, but probably not what ancient people did.

Yeah, this is neat but not a good explanation for how ancient stones were moved, many of which do not have shapes particularly conducive to rolling, including the moai of Easter Island. The article also talks about using varying densities of concrete to control the center of gravity which wouldn't really have been an option when carving from rock.

It's hard to see how this technique would apply to the very rectangular 800 tonne trilithons at Baalbek or the 1000 tonne statue at the Ramesseum, or even the 70 tonne underground sarcophagi at Saqqara.

The ancient Egyptians dug canals from the Nile all the way up to the base of the pyramids they were in the process of building. Then they built rafts that they ferried the stones from the quarries all the way to the build sites. Just in case anyone was wondering. Happy Easter!

The shape of the boulders reminds me of these: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacsayhuamán

I think their design was such that it was supposed to. However there is the fundamental difference in that there are no curved edges in the Sacsahuayman blocks, which are straight edged.

Precisely varied density in building materials feels like it would not have been available to ancient builders.

None of the boulders in the video are even close to 25 tons...

I can see this working on a perfectly flat surface, but the real world isn't flat. There's still some explanation left to do.

> How were giant ancient structures like Stonehenge, or the towering Moai heads on Easter Island, assembled at a time when cranes and trucks were still hundreds of years away?

Prehistoric people had ropes and they also had poles. I'm always baffled by this reluctance to admit that they simply used cranes, levers, and similar technology.

Not all prehistoric groups had all basic technology. There was no use of the wheel in the America’s for example.

Something doesn't add up to me.

The structures here basically exploit moments in order to move them. But there's nothing giving them stability once they are 'static'. Surely the end piece of the bridge could just fall over if you stood on the edge of it?

They're using locking blocks at the ends to stabilise things

The original site has more photos and details:


Well I them rock the boulders and they balance.

As ar as I can see they never actually move the boulders.

For this to have any relevance the bolders would need to be dragged / pushed / towed into place

There is a video of them moving; it’s a rock, rotate 180, rock, rotate 180, etc. sequence.

How do they account for uneven ground and a softer surface? I would think that weight would sink in the soil slightly and be too heavy to push out of the depression.

Ok but how did they get the smaller "keystones" in? Can't tell from the video

I think that isn’t a smaller stone, but a similarly sized one with a notch that fits the hole that must be filled to make the structure rigid.

Finally, a way to move all these boulders I have up to my 5 storey walk-up.

Just in time for Easter!

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