Monday, February 14, 2011

If the Republicans said the Earth was flat, what would Obama say ?

Obama: Opinions on the shape of the planet differ. Both sides have a point. The hypothesis that the earth is flat has served people well throughout the ages. I myself assume that the earth is flat when I try to find my way around Washington DC*. It is a remarkably useful model of reality and it worked perfectly up until roughly 1492. Those who expected to find China after a few days sailing into the Atlantic were sorely disappointed**.

However, the admirable flat earth hypothesis was not suited to the navigational challenges of the 15th century. There are notably advantages obtained by assuming that the earth is roughly spherical which are particularly important in the case of long distance navigation.

Why I was recall flying on a plane from ... Arizona***,****. They showed us the path the plane was taking on a map. I asked why it was taking a curved path instead of flying straight to Ronald Reagan Airport. A regular American sitting next to me explained that it was taking the shortest route. If I had insisted on sticking to the flat earth assumption, I wouldn't have been able to understand what he was talking about.

I was proud of my exceptional country when we landed on the moon. I was struck by the photographs of the Earth, which sure look like photographs of a roughly spherical object.

On the whole I conclude that it is usually best to make plans based on the assumption that the earth is roughly spherical, while I appreciate the contribution and insights of people who think it is best to assume it is flat.

*note other than complete frankness since he just goes where the secret service takes him.

** note other than perfect frankness since they existed about as much as "some in my party" who say crazy things.

*** note reluctance to admit he has been in California, let alone strange exotic places like Europe or Hawaii.

**** update: I thank reader "your reader" for pointing out that, in an earlier draft of this post, the *** was missing, so it was not not indicated which bone was connected to the third footnote bone.


Anonymous said...

Missing your *** link. That is, you have the fn, but no indication of what is being footnoted.

Your Reader

Robert said...

ooops it should be Arizona***. Thanks for reading closeley. Unfortunately I m going to have a bit of an asterix jam. But note that your contribution is publicly appreciated****.

Hans Suter said...

I always find it extremely alarming when matter of fact economists, historians, astronomers, start writing satirical stuff.
Bad sign.