Started From The Bottom
2014-12-20 22:42:41.000 – Joshua Perez, Summit Intern
Here’s a little math. Today the visibility was at 130 miles at 4pm. But what does that really mean, and how substantial is that?
In athletic terms, that means that up here at the Mount Washington Observatory, we could watch five continuous marathons all running directly away from the summit.
Note: For liability reasons, the Observatory cannot recommend anyone attempting to run five consecutive marathons to demonstrate this point.
Now taking that distance, we can square it and multiply by pi to get the surface area of the earth that was viewable today at the summit. It comes out to 53,093 square miles.
How big is that?
I can’t eat a whole large pizza by myself. Or at least I shouldn’t, but some nights I really get a hankering for pepperoni and I go to town on one of those bad boys. A large pizza typically has a 16in radius – converting that to miles, squaring it and multiplying by pi, it gives a surface area of 2,003×10^-10 square miles. As outlandish as it is to measure pizza in square miles, it’s necessary to make the following comparison.
If the entire world were to be covered in pepperoni pizzas, I would have been able to see 26,506,739,890 pizzas today when I went outside.
To understand how large of a number that is, if I could eat 3 large pizzas a day, everyday for the rest of my life, including leap years, that would take me 24,207,068 years to accomplish.
Now why did I bother to make these calculations? What does pizza have to do with it?
Because artists, poets, and scientists for millennia have been trying to put the intangible effects of such breath taking views into something concrete. I used math, one of the simplest ways of dealing with the abstract, and even that falls short of truly characterizing and personifying the experience. It’s not just about seeing the distance either. It’s about living it. There’s no picture that can capture all three-hundred-and-sixty degrees of sight, no fan that can recreate the tumultuous power and uncertainty of the winds, and no amusement park ride that can demonstrate the fear of being over a mile above the earth. You’ve got to be here.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” -Henry David Thoreau
Footnote: All of these estimates are low-end estimates as I make the assumption that the earth is completely flat. If one were to take into account topography the numbers would only grow larger. Additionally, I used absolute area when dealing with circular pizzas. In reality there would be some dough overlap to completely fill a circular area with circular areas
Joshua Perez, Summit Intern