The Sun Actually Still Hasn’t Set on the British Empire (as well as some others)

The expression that the sun never set on the British Empire reflected the fact that Britain’s empire consisted of land all around the world, such that it was always daytime somewhere in the British empire. Since then, the British Empire has fallen, but actually even until today not far enough for the sun to not set on it. Believe it or not, with the UK’s present-day territories, it is still daytime somewhere in the UK all the time.

A sufficient (but not necessary) condition for the sun to not set on a country is for there to exist no 180° span of longitude in either hemisphere without land belonging to the country. The UK accomplishes this among its territories in the Southern Hemisphere with the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)* (72°E), Ascension Island** (14°W), and Pitcairn Island*** (130°W).

*This is, by the way, the place for which .io is intended to be the top-level domain.
**I purposefully chose Ascension Island rather than the Falkland Islands to represent this portion of the world to more respect the disputed status of the latter with Argentina.*****
***Since I decided to make asterisked remarks for each of the previous two items in this list, I’ll also make one for the third for symmetry, which is just going to be this vacuous remark since I don’t think I actually have anything to say about Pitcairn Island. ****
****Although I seem to have successfully made each asterisked remark take as many lines as there are asterisks to denote that remark, at least on compatible systems until I change the font for my blog again, which I’m fairly sure I won’t do, but for which now you, future reader, will know what to look out for.
*****It turns out the BIOT is also disputed land. In fact, it is land that imperialist powers have managed to evict the native population from, so it’s arguably a more thirdraily case than the Argentinian dispute. Should the BIOT gain independence or come under Mauritian sovereignty, the sun will set on the British empire for sure. This would also happen if Pitcairn Island declared independence.

Unfortunately, the UK does not have this for the Northern Hemisphere. Fortunately (for the empire), this condition is sufficient but not necessary. We must now ensure that on the Northern-hemisphere summer solstice (the peak of Southern-hemisphere winter), the Southern hemisphere lands span enough longitude for there to always be some land in daylight even with the reduced day lengths. Indeed, this is the case. Pitcairn Island, the further south of these three territories, is only 25°S, thus on the shortest day still having 10.5 hours of sunlight. The other two territories, at only 7°S, have more than 11.5 hours of sunlight on their shortest day. Thus, the 158° longitude gap between the BIOT and Pitcairn Island is minded and even in June the sun never sets on the UK by the skin of its teeth (a few degrees of longitude).

The UK is in fact not the only present-day country the sun never sets on. New Caledonia (22°S,166°E), Réunion (21°S,56°E), French Guiana (4°N,53°W), and Tahiti (18°S,149°W) prevent the sun from setting on France.

There are also several countries for which the sun doesn’t set for a significant amount of the year. Since Russia spans from 20°E to 168°W, nearly half the Earth longitudinally, the sun never sets on Russia for a substantial amount of the year, that is, nearly all days in the Northern-hemisphere spring and summer. All eight countries with land north of the Arctic Circle (Russia, Canada, United States, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland) experience the sun not setting on them at least one day of the year. If one recognizes Antarctic territories, then Argentina, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand may join this party as well.

Disregarding territories, the smallest pair of countries that together the sun never sets on is {Ecuador, Singapore}, followed by {Taiwan, Paraguay}, assuming an independent Taiwan. The latter pair is rather fitting, as Paraguay is one of only a couple dozen countries in the world that recognize the Republic of China as the legitimate government of China.

You Keep Using That Word

Define the following terms. Then, determine which of the items listed below each term are examples of the term, based on your definition.

1. continent

Mars’ surface
New Guinea

(If you changed ‘continent’ to ‘island’, what would change?)

2. country

Costa Rica
European Union
Hong Kong
Islamic State
Northern Ireland
Vatican City

(If you changed ‘country’ to ‘nation’, what would change? What about to ‘state’?)

3. digestive organ

lymph node
salivary gland

4. Eastern Europe


5. fruit


(If you changed ‘fruit’ to ‘berry’, what would change?)

6. functional language


Continue reading “You Keep Using That Word”

Reflections on The Martian

(Why doesn’t WordPress allow italicizing in the title?)

About 48 hours ago, I watched The Martian. I almost cannot express how immensely I enjoyed the film.

Some of you may know that I have three favorite movies, of which I can’t really decide which among the three I appreciate the best (the one to which people respond “Yessss.”, the one to which people respond “Ooooohhh.”, and the one to which people respond “What?”). The Martian is in a place where I’m unsure if those are my favorite movies anymore and instead The Martian singularly takes that place.

I was actually pretty sure that was where my opinion is ending up through the first half of the film, and felt its quality slightly tapered as it neared its end. Now, I think there’s still a good chance it actually is my favorite film, but I need to wait to see if it remains that way in my opinion in a few days, since I could still be surging on just-watched hype.

What was I not that much a fan of later on in the film? I found that the plot went through too many incredible heightenings of tension. I don’t have a very high tolerance for suspension of disbelief, and get disappointed by lack of acknowledgement of probable realistic outcome when too many things go wrong and things end up actually going well without a good explanation. Many action movies have their plot enter too improbable a state for the good outcome to happen, and especially when one is reasonably anticipating a good outcome, this generates, at least for me, not excitement but incredulity. The latter portion of this film poked a bit far into this territory, though I’d acknowledge it could have been a lot worse.

The video-diary-like entries were curiously reminiscent of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Quality humor helped solidify a dubious but piquing connection. Does Matt Damon look that much like Neil Patrick Harris? No, although I’m more face-blind than most people. Okay, so I can be fairly sure I’m not just using physical comparisons and there’s something connecting things on a deeper level?

I approve of the care to get substantial amounts of science right. There were still questionable and incorrect aspects, and I wish they didn’t happen, but the respect for science in the film was definitely appreciable. I also think this film exhibits a rare case of relatively approvable portrayal of nerdy people.

Here’s a big thing I appreciated: minimal romance. I find that far too many films decide that a romantic plot is a requirement for a good movie, and push romance into a storyline that could have been perfectly nice (and sometimes better) without.

There was one thing that bothered me, though, and it’s analogous to one of the things that bothered me the most about biographical film Theory of Everything. The letter board with colors presented to Hawking in the film grouped Y and Z in one square and put more letters in other squares. This is quite easily recognizable as suboptimal: squares with fewer letters should have more common letters, to optimize efficiency of selection by reducing number of actions needed to communicate intent. In fact, I’m pretty sure that at the number of different squares that board had, E should’ve had one square all to itself, because E is so common that it ought to just take that short of an amount of time to express it.

Likewise, when Watney chose to set up the signs around the circle in hexadecimal, he solved a problem with arc length being too small, but my hunch is that the letter groupings by hexadecimal weighted by frequency are not even, and thus it is questionable whether hexadecimal is the right way to compress the alphabet in that communication medium. With 17 signs around the circle like Watney had, it would’ve been substantially more efficient to dedicate one entire sign to characters like a space, e, t, and s, and to either group very rare letters together since it’s probably easy to guess which one fits, or have a sign that’s like a shift key for the next character that chooses among rarer letters redistributed over the signs.

But hey, this is just a you-could’ve-done-better. Major props, Mr. Watney, for surviving as long as you did on Mars.

And overall, big thumbs up to this really great film.

One Twist Further

Many people know certain facts.
> Fewer know a certain twist.

East Timor covers the eastern half of the island of Timor.
> The name of the island, “Timor”, comes from Malay for “east”.

Negative forty degrees is where Celsius and Fahrenheit agree.
> It’s also about when mercury freezes.

“Maine” has one syllable.
> All of the US’s four-letter states are polysyllabic.

Tiananmen Square is the site of a brutal massacre of protesting students.
> “Tiananmen” means “gate of heavenly peace”.

The same side of Charon always faces Pluto.
> The same side of Pluto always faces Charon.

A and M are letters representing the universal vowel and the universal consonant, that is, the most commonly found vowel and consonant sounds in natural languages.
> A and M are the only letters in the same places on the QWERTY and Dvorak keyboards.

Same sex relationships are still not recognized by most countries.
> This is one of those countries’ flags.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is not from Kentucky.
> Arizona Iced Tea is not from Arizona either.

Nepal is the only UN-recognized country with a non-rectangular flag.
> Nepal is the only UN-recognized country exclusively in a quarter-hour time zone.

The tallest mountain on Mars is taller than the tallest mountain on Earth.
> The tallest mountain on Iapetus is taller than the tallest mountain on Earth.

North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
> North Korea’s official motto translates to “Powerful and Prosperous Nation”.

This exists.
> This exists.


Land Area: Russia/Earth: 11.4%
Land Area: Russia and Antarctica/Earth: 20.3%

Land Area: Sakha/Russia: 18.3%
Land Area: Nunuvut/Canada: 23.0%
Land Area: Alaska/United States: 16.1%
Land Area: Xinjiang/China: 18.7%

Human Population: China/Earth: 19.1%
Human Population: China and India/Earth: 36.4%

Human Population: Guangzhou/China: 7.8%
Human Population: Uttar Pradesh/India: 16.5%
Human Population: California/United States: 12.1%
Human Population: Jawa Barat/Indonesia: 18.1%

Human Population: New York City/New York State: 42.4%
Human Population: New York City in 1950/New York State in 1950: 53.2%Human Human Population: Chicago/Illinois: 21.1%
Human Population: Chicago in 1950/Illinois in 1950: 41.6%

Cities of Population >100000: California/United States: 23.9%

Subcountry Political Divisions of Population >50000000: India and China/Earth: 90.9%

Mass: Sun/Solar System: 99.9%

Mass: Jupiter/Planets of the Solar System: 71.2%
Mass: Gas Giants of the Solar System/Planets of the Solar System: 99.6%

Mass: Ganymede/Moons of Jupiter: 37.7%
Mass: Galilean Moons/Moons of Jupiter: >99.9%

Mass: Titan/Moons of Saturn: 95.7%
Mass: Spherical Saturnian Moons/Moons of Saturn: >99.9%

Mass: Titania/Moons of Uranus: 38.6%
Mass: Spherical Uranian Moons/Moons of Uranus: 99.8%

Mass: Triton/Moons of Neptune: 99.6%

Mass: Charon/Moons of Pluto: >99.9%

Calendars for Other Solar System Planets

Mercury has resonant sidereal rotation to revolution resonance of 2:3, so 3 days equals 2 years on Mercury. The Mercurian calendar is trivially one day plus one leap day exhibited every second year per year.

We’ll get back to the Venusian calendar at the end, and you’ll see why there.

The Martian year is 686.97 Earth days long, and the Martian day is 24.62 Earth hours long. There are thus 669.67 Martian days in a Martian year. The Martian calendar should therefore have 670 days with one day deleted every three years. 670 has more factors (although only by a slight amount), so it should be used as the base amount for a calendar. For months, neither of Mars’ moons has a long enough orbital period to serve as a guide for month length, and thus year divisions would purely be optimized by mathematical philosophy. One reasonable division would be 10 months of 66 days plus 10 in-between month “special” days (or, 20 months of 33 days, or, if one doesn’t desire the in-between days, just 10 months of 67 days). In all cases, -1 day per three years.

Jupiter’s year is 4332.59 Earth days long, with a 9.925 Earth-hour rotational period, for 10476.79 Jovian days in a Jovian year, calling for 10476 days in a calendar with all but every fifth year having one day added. Jupiter has four highly significant moons, the largest of which is Ganymede, which orbits Jupiter in 17.30 Jovian days. If we put 18 days in a month, Jupiter’s calendar would therefore be 582 months of 18 days each, with +1 day per four out of five years.

Saturn’s year is 10759.22 Earth days long, with a 10.57 Earth-hour rotational period, for 24429.64 Saturnian days in a Saturnian year, calling for 24430 days in a calendar with every third year having one day deleted. Saturn’s most prominent moon, Titan, orbits Saturn once every 36.20 Saturnian days. Using 35 days for a month, Saturn’s calendar would 698 months of 35 days each, with -1 day per three years.

Uranus’ year is 30799.1 Earth days long, with a 17.24 Earth-hour rotational period, for 42875.8 Uranian days in a Uranian year, calling for 42876 days in a calendar with with every fifth year having one day deleted. Oberon orbits Uranus in 18.74 Uranian days. Using 18 days for a month, Uranus’ calendar would be 2382 months of 18 days each, with -1 day per five years.

Neptune’s year is 60190.0 Earth days long, with a 16.11 Earth-hour rotational period, for 89668.5 Neptunian days in a Neptunian year, calling for 89668 days in a calendar with an extra day every other year. Triton’s revolutionary period of 8.76 Neptunian days is rather short, and the next moon out, Nereid, orbits Neptune in 536.5 Neptunian days, which is too long and not close enough to any divisor of 89668, so let’s not consider moons and give Neptune a calendar of 773 months of 116 days each, with +1 day per two years.

Back to Venus. Venus is special because its revolutionary period is shorter than its rotational period. They are 224.70 Earth days and 243.02 Earth days, respectively. In addition to this, Venus rotates retrograde, but that doesn’t affect our calendar, although if anyone thinks of a way to incorporate this further abnormality, go ahead and mention it. There are 0.9246 Venusian days in a Venusian year, for one day, with +3 years every 37 years.