The Scientist

“Perhaps you can help me,” you ask the bespectacled savant staring at a miniature globe with a string tied around its middle. “Will Islandia be destroyed, or are we safe here?”

The Scientist thinks momentarily, then shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he says, “but I’m completely wrapped up in my theoretical studies of the planet Xenuradon. Until I finish this last experiment, I can’t possibly be bothered with anything else.”

“What is the experiment?” you ask politely.

“You see this string wrapped around the exact equator of this perfectly spherical globe?” The Scientist points at his model, and you nod.

“Well, Xenuradon is—miraculously enough—also a perfect sphere, and I have imagined a similar string tied around its equator. My question is this: if 6 feet of string is spliced into that loop around Xenuradon, and if the new loop is pulled out so that it is equally far away from the planet at every point, how far off the Xenuradonian ground is the new loop?”

“That doesn’t sound too hard…” you reply. “How big is this planet?”

“That’s just it,” The Scientist answers glumly. “I don’t know.”

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