cubical Earth

What’s the matter with you guys? You’re such smartypants with all your scientific jargon, but you’ve forgotten your third grade grammar lessons. It wouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t putting things in writing, but if you’re going to use this ancient medium, you need a refresher course in elementary principles of spelling. You judiciously capitalized Neptune, as the proper name of the planet–even Bizarro World–but didn’t capitalize Earth, thereby compromising its status by likely enticing your readers to unwittingly think of their home sphere in a diminished capacity. I say it deserves respect. I grudgingly note that at least you were consistent.

Link to article: What would it be like walking around on a cube shaped planet (customary included in first post)

I prefer dictionaries over random people on the internet, they all tell me earth, when referring to the planet is either ‘often capitalized’ or ‘sometimes capitalized’. Since I, like Cecil it appears, prefer not to capitalize, I feel entirely justified in doing so.

That uncertainty is why many Golden-Age SF writers chose to use “Terra” as a formal name instead of “Earth/earth”.

Not sure from my ill-remembered University physics, but if it were literally a perfect cube - that is, one whose edges were not slightly rounded, so that the angle was precisely 90 degrees - wouldn’t there be some sort of ‘singularity’ at the edge? It would seem to me as though gravity might be infinite at the (infinitely-fine) transition.


Just wanted to say that that was a fun article. Kudos!

??? Why would that happen? Does a gravity singularity occur at the corners of a Rubics cube?

Hey, maybe that’s why I was never able to solve mine!

…then again, maybe that’s why I always cut myself when using new razor blades. It’s the gravity singularities around those sharp edges!!!

The good news would be that you couldn’t ‘fall’ no matter what happened. The bad news would be the really bad road rash that would be the result of a misstep!

OK, apologies for my previous snarky/comical response.

Let’s imagine what for gravitational purposes would be a similar situation. Let’s stay right here on our pretty-much-spherical planet and build a 10-foot-high pyramid in my back yard. Let’s make its edges as precise as we can possibly make them. Would you expect a gravity singularity at the top of that pyramid?

Well, it’s pretty much the same situation with a cubical planet. The bulk of that planet is so far away from wherever we’re standing that moving a foot or two in any direction doesn’t measurably affect the intensity or direction of the planet’s gravitational pull.

There wouldn’t be a singularity, but a cuboid planet would obviously experience cubed time, as this somewhat technical article explains.

Let me be the first to point out the error in the column:

Wrongo, asteroid breath. The largest known nonspherical body is Vesta, which is currenlly being visited by the Dawn spacecraft. Its dimensions are 578×560×458 km. Admittedly, Vesta started off spherical, but had an random encounter with another body which knocked off a large chunk. According to Wikipedia, this collision happened in the last billion years, so it may be that Vesta is still reforming a sphere. With its low gravity, it’s going to take a while.

This is related to another point in the column, that of how long a cubical Earth would relax to a sphere. The thing is, I don’t think it would be possible to construct a cube the size of the Earth in the first place. Imagine trying to build 6 mountains of the required size plus the ridges in between them. They’re going to be falling down even before you get them done. So even if you magically create such a cube, it’ll be back to a spheroid in a lot less than a billion years, probably less than 100.

Once again I have failed the Master. However, if you’re angling to replace me in the research department, you’re off to a rocky start. The largest irregular object in the solar system, if you trust Wikepedia, is the asteroid Pallas. Vesta is more massive, though. We’ll fix by and by.

I reckon you could kick off from a corner in any direction, find yourself turning inexorably towards the middle of whichever face you were on, carry on at an increasing speed until you hit the atmosphere, then either explode in a fireball or hit the central lake at enough speed to taint the atmosphere with a thin layer of water and carbon.

Or, if you fitted a brake and/or enough shielding to survive the aerobraking, you might contrive to drift to a halt at the water’s edge.

What a ride, either way. On some level it evokes the surf dude at the end of Dark Star.

That’s ok, I doubt it pays enough to be worth all the abuse.

You’re right. I just have Vesta on my mind right now, what with the Dawn mission reaching there recently and all.

But mass should count more than size, though. It’s really a more important aspect of Solar System bodies. I suppose it’s human nature to be hung up on size, unfortunately.

It could be that I’m missing some shtick you were doing with the answer, but if I’m not, what’s up with the hostility and pretentiousness?

Yeah, anyone with a moderate understanding of physics knows that any body with a mass comparable to earth would have to be a spheroid, barring extremes of rotation. Since you answered, eventually, you obviously knew what it is the asker wanted to know, and therefore the constant “lol this question is dumb” comments amount to little more than mocking the asker’s inability to phrase his question in a more precise way.
It’s also an egregious violation of the Least Convenient Possible World principle. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the fact that ignoring the central idea of an opponent’s argument and instead attacking its technical details in an attempt to avoid answering the real question amounts to at best intellectual dishonesty, and more often outright ass-hattery.

But the answer wasn’t intellectual dishonesty. You KNEW what his actual question was, and chose to ignore it in light of mental masturbation over your superior knowledge of astrophysics. That makes you a dick. Congratulations, you made someone feel stupid for asking a question about science.

I generally liked the flavor of the response, but you did leave me hanging. Obviously crossing from one face to the other at an edge’s midpoint would be a much less extreme task, but whether or not it’s outside of the atmosphere is not intuitive, and casually mentioning that at the end as if it were is a little insulting. While, like you, I could dust-off my TI-89 to and figure it out, it seems sorely lacking given than it was the initial question.

While we welcome comment and criticism, incivility is right out.

You don’t want to continue going down this road … it’s a short one.

I do note that we now have not one, not two, but THREE threads about this column… :eek:

Crossing from one face to another at the midpoint of an edge would be like climbing to the peak of a steep roof (45 degree angle), then stepping over the ridgepole and making an equally steep descent on the other side. The steepness would diminish the farther down the slope you went, a paradox we lacked the space to explain in depth (the column is published in newspapers and we’re limited to ~800 words). If not clear pls advise.

I see that you’re relatively new here (or have rejoined?)

The tone of cecil’s articles is always a little mocking. It’s just one of the ways of making the articles more entertaining.
Like the whole thing of cecil being infallible (except for the hundreds of corrections), it’s not meant to be taken too seriously.

Uh oh. Seriously worried for Mijin, now. I’m sure the squad has been dispatched… :eek::eek::eek: