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Math study on Dutch mountain

God created the world and the Dutch are creating a mountain.

The idea started as a column by journalist and former professional cyclist Thijs Zonneveld. Several companies have joined forces in a foundation (Die Berg Komt Er) to study the feasibility of building an artificial mountain and brainstorm about opportunities for among other things tourism and sustainable energy.

Bartels was asked by the Study Group Mathematics with Industry to come up with some mathematical problem when building a mountain in Holland. Next week, from January 30 until February 3, a group of approximately 80 mathematicians from all over Europe are going to address several mathematical problems from business and industry. 


Considering the tallest building on earth at the moment, made by man, is the 828 meter high Burj Khalifa in Dubai, a 2 kilometer high structure seems surreal. 

However, a few feasibility studies have already been carried out by DHV and Greenchoice. The mountain should be 2 kilometers high and may have a diameter of 10 kilometers. The consensus was that it is nearly impossible to construct a massive mountain with rocks and sand. A massive mountain would not only require 7.7 billion cubic meters of sand, it would also exert so much pressure to the surrounding ground layers, that ground levels within a radius of 50 kilometers could drop up to 100 meters. 
The mountain may be built in layers. Because funding for this expensive structure will be difficult, this might be a solution. The mountain will ‘grow’ in different phases. Also, the first layers will yield useful insight about the construction, materials and functions, which may be used to construct next layer in a more efficient way. 

A hollow mountain may provide several benefits, like energy storage room and generation of sustainable energy. For instance by creating an immense fresh water lake inside the mountain, that can be used to generate and store energy. Usage of wind in generating energy is also a realistic option. Finally, the large surface area of the mountain would be ideal for solar panels to generate solar energy. 

Problem Description

At this point, it is believed that a hollow mountain is a better choice than a massive one. The surface on the ground is approximately 14 by 14 km. How should the mountain be placed on the earth? Is there a method to distribute the weight in such a way that the effects in the environment are acceptable? What are the effects on the shape of the mountain when this would be optimized? Possible effects that need to be considered include:
• earthquakes. The Netherlands is situated above several minor geological faults. Will these be effected by the weight or other forces induced by an artificial mountain?
• effect on soil levels: Is there any truth in the idea that placing an artificial mountain will push up the earth nearby in such a way that there will be a natural hill? What is preferable: a mountain at sea or on land?
• protection against the sea: two-thirds of the Netherlands lies below sea level and is protected by a system of dikes and storm surge barriers to prevent flooding
• wind and climate: High buildings are known to have large effects on wind in cities. Some streets and area’s in the world are even protected for wind. Will an artificial mountain induce storms? Is it safe to walk on the surface of the mountain at moderate wind speeds?

Wind energy depends on wind, which changes every day. Energy demands in a country is not uniformly distributed. The combination of these two gives an unwanted situation. Using the surplus of energy to pump up water, this water can be used to flatten the energy consumption. What are the possibilities for the mountain in this direction? How much water can be used and what would be the capacity? What effects are there considering the weight of all that water?

Results of the week will be published on this website. 
More information about this week can be found on the website of the Study Group: Study Group Mathematics for Industry
Contact person Bartels: Moniek Vrielink



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