Thursday, August 18, 2011

Curious? What if the Earth were a cube?

As I have mentioned before, as a graduate student and young postdoc I was a member of a group of Cornell affiliated astronomers who revamped the "Curious? Ask an Astronomer" site at Cornell into a sort of "proto-blog". On that site there are many answers I wrote to questions sent in to the site (154 in total over a period of about 5 years). Most of the "trouble" I get into about that period of my public engagement, centres around my answer to "What's going to happen on December 21st 2012?"  which I first wrote in January 2006 and which to date has been read over 650,000 times. But I also posted lots of other answers.

Thanks to Twitter I discovered last night that one of my old answers got picked up this week and linked into an article on the Discovery News: What if Earth were a cube? (My article: "How would the weather on Earth be different if it were a cube?" posted in December 2002). I'm always a bit worried when this happens that my previous self (9 years ago in this case) would have made some big mistake. In this case I'll say I'm still reasonably happy with what I wrote. I like the discussion of how the ocean and the atmosphere would have to be spherical even if the Earth could somehow be a cube. I think what is missing is a discussion of the fact that the Earth is so massive that it just couldn't be a cube, although I did link to another answer explaining "Why are stars and planets round?", by the wonderful educator and Saturn expert Britt Scharringhausen (now a professor at Beloit College in Wisconsin).

It was also fun to be reminded of the diagram I drew to illustrate my post:

Cubical Earth by me in 2002. 
Somewhat more impressive illustrations exist online now if you Google Image search "Cube Earth"!

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