Since the days of antiquity, scholars and teachers, orators and critics, guide books and travel maps have identified Wonders of the World — locations that stand as a testament to human achievement in architecture and beauty or the represent the breathtaking awe of nature in its sprawling and magnificent chaos.
Most often, these lists of wonders come in sevens. However, from time to time there is a person, an idea, a creation or an edifice that seems to dwarf those previously held conceptions. Here are 11 things throughout history that have been billed as The 8th Wonder Of The World.
1. The Grand Canyon - Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is often called the 8th Wonder of the World for its massive scope and beauty. A major force in its preservation, Theodore Roosevelt said, "In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world."
Bonus story: In the preface to the paperback version of The Princess Bride, William Golding tells a story about the first day of filming with Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin. Andre was having difficulty with his lines, so Mandy reached up and slapped him across his face in a effort to have him read faster. It worked.
3. Compound Interest - According to legend, Albert Einstein once called compound interest the 8th Wonder of the World and the "most powerful invention in human history". There is some debate about the veracity of this quote, but there remains some evidence to suggest the sentiment, if not the exact words.
4. King Kong - In the ground-breaking original version of King Kong released in 1933 (as well as the 2005 remake), King Kong was billed as the 8th Wonder of the World. In fact, the working title of the script was, you guessed it, "The 8th Wonder."
5. The Taj Mahal - Is the Taj Mahal a part of the ultimate love story? Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, in honor of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. Using elements of Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles, it was constructed of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones. Sure beats a mixtape.
6. The Astrodome - Opened in 1965 as the Harris County Domed Stadium, the Astrodome was once billed as the 8th Wonder of the World. It was one of the first domed stadiums and influenced the next four decades of sporting event construction.
One pretty good story: In 1976, a baseball game between the Astros and Pirates was canceled due to rain. While the dome was without a leak, massive flooding prevented the umpires (and most of the fans) from reaching the park. Eventually, the game was called, but the players of both teams, who had arrived early for practice, stayed behind and ate dinner together on the field.
7. The Terracotta Army - Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, was responsible for several innovations. He oversaw the first version of the Great Wall. He created a massive national road system and unified China through a series of economic and political reforms. He was also terrified of death.
At one point, Qin Shi Huang sent hundreds of his people in search of an elixir that would grant him immortality. Most of them never returned. So, with the elusive elixir evading his grasp, the emperor created the next best thing: a massive terracotta army to protect him in the afterlife, complete with 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 670 horses. The remains of this massive army were discovered in 1979 and remain an impressive collection of ancient construction and history.
8. The Empire State Building - It's easy now to forget what a massive undertaking the Empire State Building was at the time of its construction. It was the world's tallest building for 40 years, the first building to clear 100 floors and it contains 73 elevators and over 6,500 windows. Yet it only took one year and 45 days to complete.
A fun fact about the original spire on top? It was created to be the mooring mast for airships. That's right, they said they were going to dock blimps on the top of the Empire State Building. (Though according to the New York Times, "The mast camouflaged the quest for boasting rights to the world’s tallest building, an ambition to which it seemed indecent to admit.")
9. The Palm Islands of Dubai - The United Arab Emirates has the sixth-largest oil-reserves in the world. Thanks to $1 trillion in foreign investments, it is a massively rich country and Dubai has emerged as a global business hub and tourist destination. One of the city's projects is The Palm Islands, an artificial archipelago that is currently under construction in the Persian Gulf. Although the worldwide credit crunch has affected the undertaking, it is still being hailed as the next 8th Wonder of the World.
10. The Panama Canal - The Panama Canal has been hailed as an architectural marvel and one of the most complex engineering projects ever undertaken. It more than halved the time for a ship sailing from New York to San Francisco and has dramatically increased trade between the hemispheres. Perhaps no one, however, appreciated its intricacies more than Richard Halliburton, who swam the canal in 1928. He was charged a toll of 36 cents.
11. The International Space Station - On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and announced the ambitious goal of safely sending an American to the moon by the end of the decade. The United States, shamed by Sputnik and Gagarin, was desperately looking to catch the Russians in the Space Race. Fifty years and countless geopolitical battles later, Russia (along with Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency) is a key ally in the International Space Station, an amazing combination of technology and cooperation that we hope will open doors to the vast unexplored reaches of space.