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A novel estimator of Earth’s curvature (allowing for inference as well)


Bell, David R; Ledoit, Olivier; Wolf, Michael (2024). A novel estimator of Earth’s curvature (allowing for inference as well). Annals of Applied Statistics, 18(1):585-599.

Abstract

This paper estimates the curvature of the Earth, defined as one over its radius, without relying on physical measurements. The orthodox model states that the Earth is (nearly) spherical with a curvature of π/20,000km. By contrast, the heterodox flat-Earth model stipulates a curvature of zero. Abstracting from the well-worn arguments for and against both models, rebuttals and counter-rebuttals ad infinitum, we propose a novel statistical methodology based on verifiable flight times along regularly scheduled commercial airline routes; this methodology allows for both estimating and making inference for Earth’s curvature. In particular, a formal hypothesis test resolutely rejects the flat-Earth model, whereas it does not reject the orthodox spherical-Earth model.

Abstract

This paper estimates the curvature of the Earth, defined as one over its radius, without relying on physical measurements. The orthodox model states that the Earth is (nearly) spherical with a curvature of π/20,000km. By contrast, the heterodox flat-Earth model stipulates a curvature of zero. Abstracting from the well-worn arguments for and against both models, rebuttals and counter-rebuttals ad infinitum, we propose a novel statistical methodology based on verifiable flight times along regularly scheduled commercial airline routes; this methodology allows for both estimating and making inference for Earth’s curvature. In particular, a formal hypothesis test resolutely rejects the flat-Earth model, whereas it does not reject the orthodox spherical-Earth model.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Statistics and Probability
Physical Sciences > Modeling and Simulation
Social Sciences & Humanities > Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
Uncontrolled Keywords:Flat Earth, flight times, nonlinear least squares, ‎trigonometry
Scope:Discipline-based scholarship (basic research)
Language:English
Date:1 March 2024
Deposited On:14 Jun 2024 09:36
Last Modified:15 Jun 2024 20:00
Publisher:Institute of Mathematical Statistics
ISSN:1932-6157
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1214/23-aoas1802
Related URLs:https://www.zora.uzh.ch/id/eprint/232795/
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English