The science of high-rise demolition

How blasters make a complex implosion look simple

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Nothing grabs people's attention or draws crazed male wolf calls quite like the sight of some old Las Vegas high-rise hotel being imploded. While Americans may never again view such events without eerie flashbacks to 9/11, bringing down a large building predictably, and above all safely, ironically remains a calling that demands both skill and finesse. The few seconds it takes to carry out a graceful, seemingly slow-motion building implosion makes this kind of work look simple -- even effortless. In fact though, it requires weeks and often months of planning and preparatory work. The engineering involved can be nearly as complex as that used to design the building in the first place. First, high-rise demolition engineers or "blasters" study the original building plans and decide how to persuade the structure to fall and where they want it to. Nonstructural portions are often removed by conventional methods so that they won't impede the collapse, and columns or beams may ...