Believing that the Earth is Round When it Matters

A world map. Canada seems much bigger than Israel. Note, however, that in the map countries near the equator looks smaller than they are. Update: The round-earth hypothesis is clearer to the people of New Zealand; see the comments section.

One difficult aspect of the academic life is the requirement to fly to conferences and other academic activities all over the world. Strangely, speaking about this hardship to non- academic friends does not always elicit the sympathy we deserve.

Last month, I had to be on duty in two places outside Jerusalem. The first was  a conference in Beijing and the second was a conference and a visit in the the Los Angeles area. My solution was to make a round trip to Beijing and another round trip to LA. (I am simplifying matters since there was some interference due to additional travels, visa matters, etc..)

I discovered the following flaws I make in planning my trips:

1) I am (somewhat) biased toward round trips.

More seriously…

2) I dont take into account that the earth is round.

The book solution to this travel was to go from Jerusalem to Beijing and then from Beijing to Los Angeles and from LA to Jerusalem. I completely ignored this possibility. When I realized it, it made me wonder what this reveals about my true beliefs regarding the round earth hypothesis.

Believing that this coffee cup is a realistic model of the world suffices to prefer the Beijing-LA solution over two round-trips solution!

Remark: As a matter of fact in order to think of the possibility to fly from Beijing to LA one does not have to be as advanced as to believe in the “round earth hypothesis”.  It is enough to believe that the world is either round or a cylinder so that the right and left boundaries of the world map are glued together.

This entry was posted in Mathematics to the rescue and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Believing that the Earth is Round When it Matters

  1. Kea says:

    Hmmm. Where I am from (NZ) a round-the-world ticket is standard. And it is also clear that the world is round: if you go from Sydney to Copenhagen via Japan, there is a flight from Tokyo to Copenhagen over the north pole via Anchorage. It is difficult to understand why other people make this all so complicated, but I have actually met many northerners who don’t even know that our seasons are out of phase with yours. This is truly a Dark Age.

    • Gil Kalai says:

      Dear Kea, it is certainly easier to believe in and take comfort from the round-earth hypothesis if you are so close to the boundary of the earth like in NZ.

      • Pravesh says:

        Very interesting! I couldnt understand at first why Sydney to Copenhagen via Japan and Anchorage will be a shorter trip.!

  2. Kea says:

    LOL, yeah. I wouldn’t want to fall off the edge. But then, my friends in Antarctica update their Facebook pages regularly, so it can’t be all that bad.

  3. shmuel says:

    It would be nice to have an app that would produce a steroeographic projection of the Earth with any given point as origin (and oriented at any angle). I am still stuck on the North is Up issue.

  4. Gabriel says:

    This Dilbert cartoon has more on the topic of flat-earth theories 😉

    (…and also ordinal numbers?)

  5. Gaurav says:

    Ohh.. This is why Greenland Area=2175000 {km}^2 look 2 or more times bigger than India Area=3287263 {km}^2 .

  6. Niz says:

    What about Archimedes hat-box theorem? Is it not actually saying that the surface measure on a shpere equals the measure on a cylinder, and a map is it not a flattened cylinder? Then countries near poles should look proportionally to the scale as big as they are (only distorted in shape) if presumably the map gives the correct projection.

    • was says:

      Niz, one could produce maps that preserve the area (using a suitable projection). But, the projections most frequently used for maps do not. (As the area-preserving maps, do not preserve other things one cares about, and it is impossible to preserve ‘everything.’)

  7. Alfredo Hubard says:

    this is a classic: “Canada seems much bigger than Israel.”

  8. soak says:

    Sarah Palin already knew that.. russia is her neighbor – the world is round – and she knows bearing strait – u ignored the possibility of meeting her in JC Land

    canada is not bigger than isarel canada ais in detroit or i guess suburb of detroit



  9. sesli sohbet says:

    I agree round the world. but people do it? I think every human being in this world do not have the same rights

  10. LOL, yeah. I wouldn’t want to fall off the edge. But then, my friends in Antarctica update their Facebook pages regularly, so it can’t be all that bad.

  11. Kelley says:

    Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and
    gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear
    and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it
    pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off
    topic but I had to tell someone!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s