# Can humanity complete a massively complicated task in a day, if it must do so to save itself?

The aliens have come and would like to test our mettle. We will need to build an almost exact duplicate of the Empire State Building, complete with any ornate fixtures, carpets, curtains, furnishings, etc, in a day. The concrete needs to be dry, the building needs to be stable at the end of the 24 hours. The materials don't have to be the exact same, but everything must look and feel the same.

We're given 10 years to prepare for the building day. Preperations will probably include setting materials around the build site, putting heavy equipment next to each big piece, formulating fast-drying components, sculpting bricks, etc. Will we be able to do it?

• Why would we want to do what the aliens are asking? Are they going to exterminate us if we can't (or lie and exterminate us if we do, since we're a threat)? Or are they going to reward us if we can do it? If the latter, what reward would be incentive enough to get the required number of people working on the problem? If the former, how do you prevent panic at being asked to perform an "impossible" task or else... – Monty Wild May 20 '16 at 1:53
• Thats will be deal for 10k people at max, so we humanity, 7kkk-10k ppl will do nothing. What sort of test it will be. – MolbOrg May 20 '16 at 2:02
• There's a phrase in engineering related to this: 9 women cannot make a baby in 1 month. – Cort Ammon May 20 '16 at 6:06
• We sent people to the Moon in a few days, only needing the almost full decade of preparation before the trip. (Plus all the related work that happened before going to the Moon was an explicit goal.) – user May 20 '16 at 9:05
• @MontyWild That begs the question: Who are those aliens who come to our world to test us? I mean, for real, how incredibly rude are those guys? – AmiralPatate May 20 '16 at 9:12

How about cheating a bit by pre-assembling blocks during the 10 years and keeping them ready for assembly on D-day? That would be do-able.

The comparable Eiffel tower at 300m (to EmState's 381) was built in around 2 years by 300 employees in 1887-89, thanks to pre-prepared components and carefully laid plans. There are some cases of buildings being made in as less as 15 days with pre-fabricated components and cases where entire buildings with fittings, lights, carpets were assembled out of pre-made components.

Concrete is out of question - it would take too long to set vertically and be stable. But perhaps some plastic-carbon-polymer material around steel/some-strong-material internal frame that would look like the Empire State but wouldn't really be the same. Agreed no one has done that anything that high in a day till today, but surely 10 years is a doable challenge for us as a whole if all nations of the world co-operated with all their resources and R&D. Even if only 10k people participated on the day, there'd be millions who could indirectly help over the years.

We might be able to coordinate and complete a massively complicated task, but not a replica of the Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building has 102 floors. Over a twenty four hour period, that means we have to build 4.25 floors an hour. That's more than one floor every fifteen minutes. Even if we had instantly drying concrete (which would be unwieldy and problematic in and of itself) we couldn't fill 22,000 square feet twelve feet high in 15 minutes. And that ignores the fact that you'd need electrical wires and piping, not to mention steel beams and other supports.

You're tasking all of humanity with this assignment, yet the mere population of New York City would exceed the necessary bodies to complete the task by millions. Building vertically is difficult and time consuming. Doing so in such a small space is absolutely impossible.

You'd be better off enjoying your last few years on Earth.

• You'd be better off mass producing weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems for ten years. That'll show those pesky aliens. – AmiralPatate May 20 '16 at 11:00
• @Fiksdal where's he say that? – JDługosz May 20 '16 at 19:58
• @JDługosz OP says "That's more than one floor every fifteen years." – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica May 20 '16 at 20:08
• @JDługosz I meant, I think he means every 15 minutes. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica May 20 '16 at 20:10
• I see, "That's more than one floor every fifteen minutes." In the first paragraph, and the post is still unedited. So where do you see "years"? – JDługosz May 20 '16 at 20:21

In those 10 years you'd build steel scaffolding with rails over the intended site and next to, as well as a very long straight railway leading up to it.

Each floor is designed by and produced by IKEA, assembled (as far as allowed by the aliens) on motorized railway carriages lined up on the railway with the remaining components lined up next to them. The same goes for the vertical support beams.

On D-day at midnight:

• the furnishing crews rush their carts into their assigned floors to finish anything that wasn't allowed as a "component"
• the vertical support beams are hoisted up the scaffolding but not into place yet.
• the carriages for the bottom floors (as many as the scaffolding can support) climb their way up the main scaffolding under their own power (A)
• once the bottom floor is in place, they are lowered on top of each other, then the carriages retract their hooks and descend from the scaffolding.
• the vertical beams are then lowered through the holes in the floors and the anchoring starts.
• while the base floors are being anchored, the other (completed) floors start ascending the secondary scaffolding (B) in order, using a slowly climbing bridge to cross to the main scaffolding when they are above the current highest floor.
• every 10 floors or so another set of vertical beams is lowered into the new floors and anchored.
• this continues to the top floor, with crews inside the building anchoring and connecting (water, electricity) on each floor as it descends into place.
• one the outside, crews ride the carriages and unwrap any parts (like ornate fixtures) that needed protection during the ascent.
• the elevators are contained in the top floor and simply unbolted from the sides of the shaft once the floor is in place.
• as the last floor is in place, the scaffolding is taken apart and the parts transported down on the now empty carriages.
• micromanagers inspect and sign off on each floor.
• the building is done!

Btw, one more essential thing: the people spend 9 years training in their assigned roles, most of which is spent learning to interpret IKEA manuals.

• Thanks, I like your way of thinking, much better than all the nay-sayers – HH- Apologize to Carole Baskin May 20 '16 at 23:51

Here is a plausible way:

During those 10 years, devote an insane amount of money, resources, and all the brightest experts in the world to build a fast, absolutely humongous 3D printer and place it on the site. The actual printing will take place on the day itself, but we would probably perform many tests along the way.

Here's an example, although it's much smaller and slower. But we have 10 years and the united efforts of all of humanity:

China building world's largest 3D printer to construct houses.

3D Printing Materials: From Metals to Porcelain, Plastics to Sandstone, and everything in-between.

It depends on what counts as "construction".

As Avernium has pointed out, one day simply isn't enough time to build an empire state building. Even if we pre-fabricate large portions of the tower, such as entire floors, and crane them into place, we're left with minutes to hoist huge, ponderous, heavy floors of a tower into place and secure them before adding the next floor. The only way to reasonably maybe do something like that would be to build a tower factory bigger than the tower itself, at which point it would be simpler to figure out how to...

Prefabricate the entire tower and spend the day moving it into place.

We'll pool the materials and technical expertise of the people of Earth to, over ten years, build a bigger one of these:

The vehicle pictured is the crawler-transporter: the largest self propelled vehicle in the world. It's used by NASA to move space shuttles around. If we put enough resources into doing so, we can probably build one an order of magnitude larger, which we can use to simply move a completed replica of the empire state building (probably built on top of the tower) over a prepared site where it can simply be lowered into a foundation, which will similarly be built off-site and lowered into a hole in the ground by a second crawler.

This will reduce our tower "construction" on our day of reckoning to six simple steps:

1. Dig a big hole for the foundation.
2. Lower the foundation into the hole.
3. Lower the tower into a hole in the foundation and remove any support structure.
4. Pray that the aliens don't accuse us of cheating.
5. ???
6. Profit.
• Yeah. The aliens never gave a maximum size for each "piece." We might as well try huge pieces. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Jun 19 '16 at 20:07

Building the NESB (New Empire State Building) in 24 hours is, as Avernium has suggested, not likely. However, all of the answers so far seem to have two assumptions: the construction needs to be done vertically, and the finished building must be freestanding and visible at the end of 24 hours. The latter is not specified, and the former is not, when you think about it, necessary.

Instead, build horizontally. Surround the construction with a hollow scaffold as high as the final building. Each level of the scaffolding contains both structural elements and furnishings, and these are moved horizontally into place. Since each floor is supported at first by the scaffolding, there is no need to wait for structure to be complete before the internal finishing work is started. All internal surfaces need to be composed of prefabbed panels, as does the exterior cladding. Since each floor is constructed in parallel with the others, work time is maximized. And I suspect it will all be necessary, once you consider the finicky work required to make electrical and plumbing connections.

Of course, at the end of the construction the finished building is surrounded by the scaffolding and probably invisible. Getting rid of the scaffolding might well be the hard part. You can't just tip the scaffolding outwards - the World Trade Centers demonstrated that structures aren't strong enough to fall like trees. Controlled demolition won't work either, for two reasons: first, the effects of falling debris will do major damage to the lower floors, and second the debris will pile up to several stories high and clearing that away will take considerable time.

• There is probably a rule against prefab components. Otherwise just prepare two halves ahead of time, staged an inch apart. – JDługosz May 20 '16 at 19:54

Yes. As others have said, it will require really extensive prefabbing. I propose a somewhat different approach to building it, though.

Build four "buildings" around the final job site. In each building you assemble entire floors (one has floors 1, 5, 9, 13..., the next has 2, 6, 10, 14... etc.) The buildings have beams connected across the final jobsite.

When the clock strikes midnight you slide the floors over to the final building, fasten all the beams together and pour your quick-setting concrete. At 23:59 you fire the shaped charges that will cut the connecting beams, then fire the charges to bring down the outer supports of the surrounding buildings. While a building of that size won't truly topple it's going to tip outward as it falls--you can get an awful lot of directionality to the debris field. Combine that with separate partition walls between the buildings and the final structure to corral stray bits from the demolition and you should be able to pull it off.

Now, the organization of the steel in the resulting building won't be the same as the original but overall it will look basically the same.

(I do, however, worry about blowing windows when the cutting charges separate the beams used to move the pieces into place.)

Unlike the other proposals this allows moving every floor into place simultaneously and I don't believe any possible solution exists that doesn't do it basically simultaneously.

I vote no. We'd probably spend the whole 10 years debating it.

Now destroying something complicated in a day. . . THAT we excel at!