You think the Shard is tall? You don't know tall

The Shard may be big for London, but it's dwarfed by really tall buildings.

The Shard opened on Thursday, to much fanfare a disappointing laser show, but regardless of the questionable symbolism behind the fact that the biggest building in the city is a monolith to the power and wealth of a group of foreigners (a situation which reminds me of nothing so much as the Citadel from Half Life 2's City 17), one thing which everyone is agreed on is that it really is very tall.

It's not. It's a tiddler. Sure, it may be the biggest building in Western Europe – at least until Paris's Hermitage Towers are finished around 2015 – but compared to really tall buildings, it hasn't got a chance. 

Via the Mirror, here's a view from the top of the building:

For the sake of comparison, here's that same view replicated using Google Earth, with all those pretty 3D buildings:

Here's what it looks like if you put the Burj Khalifa, the biggest building in the world, at the same location:

The Gherkin is dwarfed in the bottom right, and see that green line in the middle distance? That's Hertfordshire. This is what tall looks like.

What the Shard lightshow should have looked like. It didn't. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
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How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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