Marvels in our Back Yard

We could be living in a world of really cool stuff if the people who build our stuff had a better grasp of the workings of the world around them. Here’s an example of what I mean. This is one of numerous decorative concrete spheres lining a certain plaza in Laguna Niguel, California.

A Decorative Concrete Sphere

These sorts of things are apparently not that difficult to make–how much harder would it be to paint or etch a globe onto the surface? If you were to orient it with your own location (in this case Southern California) at the top, and with the North Pole of the globe pointing at the North Star in the sky, then the globe would be oriented in space in exactly the same way as the real Earth underneath it. If the people who made the concrete ball in Laguna Niguel had done this, my photograph might have looked something like this:

A Spherical Sundial

With the globe turned like this, every country on its surface would face into space in the same direction as the corresponding country on the real globe underneath the concrete one, and the direction from the top of the globe to any other location on the globe would tell you the direction from you to the same place on Earth. To put it another way, if I had backed up after taking my picture, in a straight line for 20,000 miles or so, I would have seen Australia and the Pacific Ocean.

Not only would the concrete globe be able to show you directions in this way, but the sunshine would fall onto the globe in exactly the same way that it falls onto the Earth, and you could tell by looking at the globe about what time of day it is everywhere on the planet. The globe would be a world-wide spherical sundial. The picture above was taken in mid-morning (in California), at which time the sun had just risen on Hawaii, was about to rise on New Zealand, and was setting in Europe and Africa. Any observer would have been able to tell this from the shadow line (or “terminator” as astronomers call it) on the globe.

Why don’t we see things like this in our plazas? Because the people who build plazas learned very little about the perceivable world in their science classes, and they don’t think of things like this.

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