According to a 1918 science magazine, the Earth would transform into a pyramid

Illustration for article titled According to a 1918 science magazine, the Earth would transform into a pyramid

In the May 1918 issue of the youth science and current events periodical My Magazine, an unnamed author played it particularly fast and loose with geophysics when he declared that the planet was slowly becoming a pyramid. "What sort of people will live on the tetrahedron?" screamed the author in the headline, somewhat accusatorially. The short answer? Bad poets.

According to the author, the continental structure is evidence that our planet is evolving into an inverted pyramid with the Arctic Ocean becoming a perfectly flat expanse from the Yukon to Scotland to Siberia. The Earth will naturally cool and contract such that it takes up the least amount of space, every other aspect of tectonic design be damned:

If we take a terrestrial globe and examine it carefully we must be struck by the fact that almost all the large land forms taper to the south, while the great waters narrow towards the north. In other words, the continents are V-shaped and the oceans A-shaped. Look at Africa, Arabia India, Australasia, North America and South America among the lands, and at the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans among the seas. What does this mean?

The triangular forms of land and water set geographers thinking, and they came to the conclusion that an arrangement so general could not be the result of accident, but must be governed by some law. Much attention has been given to the matter in recent years, and men of science believe that the theory that best fits facts is that the earth is becoming tetrahedral in shape.

To understand this easily, let us take a piece of plasticine or clay and make a figure such as is shown in the picture above. Now, holding the figure point downwards, imagine the three up-and-down edges to be the great North and South land groups, the first Europe with Africa, the second Asia with Australasia, and the third North and South America. The flat surfaces of the tetrahedron are the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. We should naturally expect, with a flat surface of the tetrahedron on top and with the point stretching south, that there would be an ocean at the North Pole and a continent at the South; and such is actually the case, as we know from the discoveries of Nansen, Peary, Scott, and Shackleton [...]

The question may be asked why the earth in cooling should tend to become a tetrahedron, and an interesting answer is given by men of science. When the earth was first formed it was spherical, and a sphere is the shape which encloses more space for a given surface than any other figure. As the earth began to cool, the surface solidified, and a crust was formed, the core being still hot. But this core continues to lose heat, and as it does so it must necessarily contract and occupy less space. The hardened shell of the earth, however, is unable to contract: being already solidified, it must continue to maintain the same surface area, and the way it accommodates itself to the shrinking interior is to change its shape to one occupying less space for the same surface area.


By far the best parts are the predictions about the Earthoderon's futuristic doggerel and benevolent overlords:

We may be sorry for the editors and poets in those days. It is pleasant to write of sailing round the globe, or of this spinning ball, but who would not pity the poet who has to write and make his rhymes about some bold Sir Francis Drake's brave journey round the tetrahedron? We hope the League of Nations will rule the Tetrahedron well.

[Via Forgotten Futures]

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Just imagine that some of the stuff in today's science magazines are just as wrong as that.