Search This Blog

05 August 2006

up from the fœtid Comment Sewers deep beneath streets of Olde Ciudad Vleeptron / Wrong & Annoying Answer to Stale Old PizzaQ

Received this day, an answer to an Old PizzaQ.

An answer. Just not the Right Answer. Also the Dude or Dudeusse is a Coward or Cowardeusse and does not provide Her or His or Its Name or a Link or anything.


14 May 2005

Jeez I had a great time hanging with Eratosthenes in Alexandria in 230 BC the other night. I couldn't stay long, I got things to do in The Present, but after we got drunk on the retsina and woke up with big hangovers the next morning, Eratosthenes had two tickets to see the Alexandria premier of a big play from Athens, "The Trojan Women," I think by Euripides. We had really good seats way down front in the Amphitheater, but even the people in the cheap seats could figure out what was going on, because when the actor was Sad, he'd put on a mask with a Big Frown (and there's a little megaphone in the mouth to amplify his/her speech).

Not the Feel-Good Hit of the Season, but certainly a very powerful piece of drama with an important message about war. Everybody fixates on Victory, but for every winner, there's a loser, and "The Trojan Women" is about what happens to them. I don't think a single actor or actress used the other mask with the Big Smile through the whole show.

Man, them Ancient Greeks!
Tragedy! Comedy! Mathematical Proof! Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns! Spanikopita! If I hadn't had to get back here and empty the dishwasher for SWMBO, I would have stayed a few more days, or a week. It would take six months to check out my bud Eratosthenes' Library and Museum. (Later it got burned down, some say by Romans, some say by Christians ... nobody's leaping to claim credit in the history textbooks for torching the Great Library of Alexandria. Like my friend's teenage son said after he made doughnuts on the golf course with his dad's Volvo on Saturday night: "It seemed like a good idea at the time.")

Well, did I tell you that Eratosthenes was the first guy to accurately measure the size of the Earth? Fortunately, I aimed the [Heathkit Solid-State Time Machine] TM-212 and arrived three years AFTER he did that. (Otherwise I would have spent the whole time with a sock stuffed in my mouth so I wouldn't tell him that he was going to be the first human being to accurately measure the Earth, and I sure wouldn't have wanted to spill any hints about How He Was Going to Measure the Earth. He figured that out all by himself.)

But he told me lots of nifty details about his trip up the Nile to Syene for the Earth-Measuring Project and yadda yadda -- god, what a kick-ass interesting guy. And Archimedes -- across the Mediterranean in Sicily -- was his pen pal, and he showed me letters from Archimedes! With Archimedes' original hand-drawn mathematical diagrams! There was a sketch of

on one of them! Wow!

They'd met, Archimedes went to Alexandria when he was a young guy. Eratosthenes said he had this real hick, rube Doric accent, like Faulkner's Mississippi accent, so if you had the usual Athenian prejudices, it took you a few minutes to realize you were chatting with the Most Brilliant Human Being on Earth. (Not just then, maybe for always. Archimedes invented First-Year Calculus. Then a Roman soldier murdered him in 212 BC, and the world promptly forgot First-Year Calculus for the next 19 centuries.)

Okay, so Erathosthenes measured the size of the Earth. That's an amazing story in itself, maybe (if you beg or send me some raw sausage) I'll tell it. Or three slices of Pizza with Double Anchovies are yours if you want to write How He Did That in the labyrinthine Comment Sewers of Vleeptron.

But it begs the Other Question:

How much does the Earth weigh?

The Earth is just a thing with mass, just like a cheerleader or a chair, so it must weigh something, in pounds or stone or kilograms.

Who was the first human being
to accurately weigh the Earth?

Of course now we know that it's extremely simple to do, any of us can do it right now at home. You just turn the bathroom scale upside-down and place the weighing surface on top of the Earth (your bathroom floor), and it weighs the Earth, just like when it's right-side-up and you stand on it and it weighs you. There is that one small extra problem of reading the number, because the scale's upside-down, and if you try to lift up a corner of the scale to read the number, it's not weighing the Earth anymore. (This is an Unsolved Problem very closely related to proving that when you close the refrigerator door, the light goes off. This problem is also still unsolved.)

Okay, so as usual, I am just feeding you a bunch of crap to see who falls for it. That has nothing at all to do with How to Weigh the Earth. Weighing the Earth has nothing whatsoever to do with your bathroom scale. You can come out of the bathroom now.

But some Human Being actually once DID weigh the Earth accurately for the very first time in history. And just like Eratosthenes, this Human Being is also one of my heroes, I am planning a Special Time Journey to check this Human Being out.

I've actually been to this HB's home, and guess what??? It has a MAZE! A big-ass garden Labyrinth, with twists and turns and dead ends and frustration!

And beer cans and used condoms and candy wrappers, just like the chain-link fence labyrinth at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. So it was closed to the public (me) when I got there.


I could only admire it from the outside. And be very annoyed at all the jerks before me who left the used condoms and the beer cans.

On Vleeptron, we all take a Labyrinth Oath when we're 4:

"I swear always to treat all mazes and labyrinths
with awe and respect, and to pack out all my trash."

But anyway, MORE PIZZA! Who was the first Human Being to accurately weigh the Earth? How the heck did this person do it? And (drum roll .................) How much does the Earth weigh?

Ahhh ... no Honor System on this one. Surf your brains out. But if you already know without having to Cliquez Ici, if you just already know, we'll take your word for it, and that's worth pineapples on the pizza.

posted by Bob Merkin | 17:47

Anonymous said...

Nevil David Maskelyne

Bob Merkin said...

1. The first Dude or Dudeusse to accurately weigh the Earth was NOT Maskelyne, no Pizza for u. I know bunches about Maskelyne, most of them unfavorable things, and he wasn't the World's First Earth-Weigher.

2. The next Dude or Dudeusse who answers an serious important PizzaQ or has some gasbag Opinion on an important Political Question as an Anonymous Comment-Leaver, I am going to run this creature over with one of those Highway Department steamrollers. NO MORE DRIVEBY COMMENTS!


Abbas Halai said...

actually, the earth cannot technically be weighed, from my limited knowledge of basic physics, someone please correct me if i'm wrong. only it's mass can be calculated. the weight of an object is measured relative to a secondary object (rather the gravity from that secondary object). so if you gave asked for the weight of the earth relative to the moon, that could be done, but i'm pretty sure, the weight of earth on it's own can't be calculated. the weight of a person on earth is calculated relative to the distance from earth (generally the centre of mass of the planet which in basic high school science is taken as the average radius of the earth). force of gravity is calculated by Fg = G*(M1*M2/R^2) where Fg is the force of gravity, G is the gravitational constant, m1 and m2 are the masses of the two objects, and R is the distance between the two objects.

someone correct me if i'm wrong, or bug bob if it's too confusing.

Bob Merkin said...

hey hey salaam abbas r u in PK now? bring me back some of that Airport Halvah! hope you're having a great time, who's gettin' married?

you are SMART! yes, you can't "weigh" the earth like you can weigh my cat on the bathroom scale. All you can do is use a chain of other measurable phenomena to compute the Mass of the Earth.

So shame on me for asking the question in so deceptive a way. So now I shall be Less Deceptive:

Who was the first Human Being to accurately, using an astonishingly clever experiment, compute the MASS of Earth?

(Double anchovies if you can find out the Value of Mass this Human computed. Or toss in today's most precise Value if ya know that.)

patwithanIPod said...

I am just listening to the audio book on the IPat of Bill Bryson's "History of nearly everything" and according to him it was Masclyne who had to to the job . Further deteils on req

Bob Merkin said...

Not Nevil Maskelyne ... though he was deep near the center of the English "gentlemen scientists" when My Guy did this task of computing the Mass of the Earth. They almost certainly knew each other well.

(Maskelyne would have certainly admired My Guy, but maybe My Guy didn't have such a hot opinion of Maskelyne.)

According to Wikipedia, Maskelyne does indeed deserve significant credit for his experiments about the Earth.

But My Guy gets the Big Antique Pizza and his name in the Record Books (along with Another Huge Pizza for Another Huge Discovery).

Jeez ... what wonderful times those were!

patwithanIPat said...

Reckon I need to listen to this chatper again......It wasn't Cavendish, he inherited the job from someone else, there was this loony who built a machine or device (Mitchell?)l, there is also a connection with Mason/Dixon. Now that's the downside of audiobooks, I'll listen to it again tonight on me way back from work and give you the dtls

Bob Merkin said...

Cavendish seems to have first conceived of the scheme and wrote his ideas to Mitchell, who built most of the torsion bar apparatus, then died before he did the experiment, but when Cavendish received the equipment, he was the first to perform the experiment.

But before we continue this fight and then fight over the pizza, check this out:

a guy from Fourmilab (not the USA's Fermilab) in CH shows you how to re-create the experiment in your basement.

Cavendish's experiment came within 1% of the modern accepted value of the Earth's mass.

You're the first to mention Cavendish's name. If you don't keep saying it wasn't Cavendish, you win the pizza.