What is the Largest Man-Made Object?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

The largest man-made objects in the world are submarine communications cables. The longest stretch from San Francisco to New Zealand or San Francisco to Japan, stretching over 5,000 mi (8,000 km). These submarine cables are typically 2.6 in (6.6 cm) in diameter and weigh around 22 lb (10 kg) per meter, weighing in at a total of more than 176 million pounds (80,000 metric tons) for the entire length. This may sound like a lot, but it isn't much in comparison to other man-made objects: for instance, the Great Pyramid weighs about 8.3 billion pounds (3.8 million metric tons), and the Three Gorges Dam in China weighs about 75 billion pounds (34 million metric tons).

A ship going through a lock at the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric dam.
A ship going through a lock at the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric dam.

Discounting other two-dimensional objects such as rail lines, power lines, oil pipelines, and so on, some of the world's largest man-made objects are scientific experiments. For instance, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a circular tunnel 16.5 mi (26.6 km) in length, buried between 164 to 574 ft (50 to 175 meters) underground, and includes over 1,600 superconducting magnets. It collides subatomic particles at to within a fraction of the velocity of light, and cost between $5 and $10 billion US Dollars (USD) to build.

The Great Pyramid is among the largest man-made objects.
The Great Pyramid is among the largest man-made objects.

Another large man-made object in the form of a scientific experiment is the IceCube neutrino detector, located at the South Pole. Consisting of a series of optical sensors deployed on strings over 0.62 miles (1 km) long, the total size of the experiment is about 0.239 cubic miles (1 cubic km).

The Boeing 747 is one of the largest aircraft ever manufactured.
The Boeing 747 is one of the largest aircraft ever manufactured.

More famously, the largest man-made object in terms of weight and 3-D volume is the Three Gorges Dam, which spans the Yangtze River in China. As previously mentioned, the dam weighs about 75 billion pounds (34 million metric tons), has a length of 7,661 ft (2,335 m) a height of 607 ft (185 m), and width (at the base) of 377.3 ft (115 m). A close runner-up is the Terminal 3 building at the Beijing Capital International Airport, which covers 240 acres (0.97 square km) and is nearly 2 miles (3.2 km) long.

Though now surpassed, the Hoover Dam was the world's largest concrete structure when it was completed in 1935.
Though now surpassed, the Hoover Dam was the world's largest concrete structure when it was completed in 1935.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments

anon992069

The largest single man made object, that is of one continuous connected structure, is the road network of the United States. It is three dimensional, and far exceeds the weights mentioned above.

anon939716

Don't we have better things to do than worry about this stuff?

anon269075

Actually, the largest thing made by humans no longer exists, but was far bigger than the Earth.

GigaGold

Man is outmatched in his creative capacity by his destructive capacity. We have killed and destroyed more than we have created, and any celebration of the "wonders of mankind" are short-lived when we consider the atrocities of history.

SilentBlue

The pyramids seem like an impossible task to have been undertaken using ancient machinery, and they likely took a massive number of people a lifetime to complete. Stonehenge is also mind-boggling in its scale. How could the ancients have been so talented at mapping the celestial bodies and have had the time or wherewithal to construct such wonders? These mysteries seem to be lost in history. Maybe their constructions were documented in the Library at Alexandria.

BostonIrish

These cables to faraway lands may be a precursor to what one day may become subaquatic and subterranean subway systems connecting the world. Such a massive-scale project with multiple jurisdiction would require a world which could think together and be united in diversity. We are fast approaching such a world via the internet.

arod2b42

The seven wonders of the ancient world were the largest ancient social and religious structures of a bygone era, few of which have survived to this day. One such wonder was the Library of Alexandria, which housed compendious volumes of forgotten lore which are now lost to history due to vandalism by invading Turks.

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