The Truth but not the Whole Truth

The Earth is a ball, but we educate generation after generation to view representations on 2D surfaces. To represent the whole global surface, we sometimes stretch the poles, single points, into lines at the top and bottom of these flat sheets that are as long as the equator. We are so used to such distortions of the truth that we need to be persuaded that the shortest route from New York to Beijing passes very close to the North Pole. We propagate a falsehood that is so absurd that it is a wonder that anyone takes it seriously at all. But we do it because flat surfaces are so very convenient. We can pin them to walls, we can fold them up and carry them around, and we can compile them into books.


Flat Surface Great Circle Short Route Global Surface False Color 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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