The Arabian emirate of Dubai has a reputation for hugely ambitious, adventurous architecture. One of its wildest (you might prefer to say silliest) schemes, still on the drawing board, is an 80 storey skyscraper in which every single floor will rotate independently, completing a full 360 degree turn every 90 minutes.
From outside, the whole building would be seen to be in perpetual slow motion. From inside, you would have a continually changing view of Dubai.
Critics of the scheme argue that this constant rotation would play havoc with the residents’ “circadian rhythms”. This is a phrase we’ve probably all heard of, but few of us are sure what it means. So here goes:
A circadian rhythm is a biological pulsation that completes its cycle in a period of approximately 24 hours. It has been observed widely, in plants, fungi and animals including humans.
Taking cues from external factors, especially daylight, it enables us to adapt and respond to our physical environment, helping to regulate our body temperature, brain wave activity, hormone production, blood and cell regeneration. In some animal life, the rhythm plays a vital role in governing migration and hibernation.
It can continue to operate even when the usual external cues are removed. For example, if you spent a couple of days in pitch darkness with no way of telling the time, you would still feel more alert in daytime and more sleepy at night.
But if the rhythms are severely disrupted, the consequences can be drastic. Laboratory experiments on mice have shown that hormone production becomes erratic as their bodies send erroneous signals to their brains.
And nowadays, millions of us have experienced the disorientation and discomfort of jet lag, which is a perfect example of circadian rhythm disorder. So think carefully before investing in one of those whirligig apartments in Dubai!