John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It's like they're occupied by cigar-sucking giants.
One could make many arguments—though one shouldn't need to—why taking down a huge cooling tower with explosives is awesome. One of the more unusual ones is that when the tower collapses into rubble, it can blow out a gigantic smoke ring as if occupied by a stogie-sucking Cyclops.
Britons valiant enough to "ignore health and safety warnings" by trekking out early at dawn Sunday were lucky enough to see not one, but three stacks blow rings before hitting the dust. The dying structure before them was part of the coal-and-oil Didcot power station west of London, voted in a 2003 survey as one of the U.K.'s worst eyesores. Explained one offended owner of retinas: "Not only is it big, grey and dirty-looking, but it has been placed in the middle of an open plane making it visible from up to thirty miles away. Would this be allowed today? I suspect not."
Removing the 1970s-era towers, whose collective weight added up to roughly 40,000 tons, required some 400 pounds of high explosives. The forceful blasts sent hot gas and dust shooting up the interior of the stacks, producing the faint rings visible right at the demolition's beginning. The halos hovered briefly before being covered by thick clouds of smokes.
If you're having trouble noticing the effect in the above video, it's quite visible in this slower frame-rate footage: