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Sobel Dava - Longitude


Author : Sobel Dava
Title : Longitude
Year : 1995

Link download : Sobel_Dava_-_Longitude.zip

Imaginary Lines. When I'm playful I use the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales. - mark twain, Life on the Mississippi. Once on a Wednesday excursion when I was a little girl, my father bought me a beaded wire ball that I loved. At a touch, I could collapse the toy into a flat coil between my palms, or pop it open to make a hollow sphere. Rounded out, it resembled a tiny Earth, because its hinged wires traced the same pattern of intersecting circles that I had seen on the globe in my schoolroom - the thin black lines of latitude and longitude. The few colored beads slid along the wire paths haphazardly, like ships on the high seas. My father strode up Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Center with me on his shoulders, and we stopped to stare at the statue of Atlas, carrying Heaven and Earth on his. The bronze orb that Atlas held aloft, like the wire toy in my hands, was a see-through world, defined by imaginary lines. The Equator. The Ecliptic. The Tropic of Cancer. The Tropic of Capricorn. The Arctic Circle. The prime meridian. Even then I could recognize, in the graph-paper grid imposed on the globe, a powerful symbol of all the real lands and waters on the planet. Today, the latitude and longitude lines govern with more authority than I could have imagined forty-odd years ago, for they stay fixed as the world changes its configuration underneath them—with continents adrift across a widening sea, and national boundaries repeatedly redrawn by war or peace. ...

1943 lectures

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