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A world globe as a reference tool: As current & appropriate as ever

Nearly everyone agrees that a world globe is a fun and great way to look at the world we live on, to see how geography affects climates and cultures & their relationships with the rest of the world. Children love globes for the round shape and bright colors, and the older generation enjoy reminiscing of experiences they've had traveling, or places they've wanted to visit. Newshounds love globes because they're packed with information, and the interior  decorators love globes that can help deliver that special look or feel to a room.

In today's age of technology, people are now more than ever allowed the luxury of communicating with people from all over the world. With our increased global-mindedness, it would seem natural that the earth itself would be on our minds even more today. Though technology brings us many things we all use and enjoy, some things simply cannot be replaced by a computer screen or pure data. To us, a world globe is among the items that simply cannot be outdated by new electronic technology, though technology certainly has helped the industry immensely. Satellite data collecting, imagery, and general computer data processing have all helped the globe and map industry immeasurably. This technology allows globe makers to offer a much higher level of detail and accuracy than ever before. Still, there is just no replacement for a 3 dimensional model of our planet.

Considering today's global ecological and political climates, there has never been a more appropriate time to consider the planet we live on as a whole. Once again, a world globe can help keep us reminded that we're all sharing our planet's resources. In addition to a general added 'global awareness', having a globe in your home can have its very practical uses.

Ways to use your globe

What are your Coordinates?

You may have noticed already there are lines crisscrossing your globe, running across oceans and national boundaries. These lines are designed to help you locate places on the globe.

The line that runs around the middle of the globe, dividing the northern half (or hemisphere) from the southern half, is called the equator. The lines that go from east to west are called latitudes, or parallels. These lines are parallel to the equator. For example, if you are on the 30 south latitude, that means you are 30 south of the equator. If you are standing on the equator, you are at 0. As you get closer to the North Pole or the South Pole, the degree numbers get larger.

The lines that go from north to south are called longitudes, or meridians. Just like the latitudes, the longitude lines are marked with numbers so you can find places on the globe. The prime meridian, a line that runs through Greenwich, a part of London, England, is at 0.

Why did cartographers use Greenwich as the starting point when they measured longitude lines? The reason is that Greenwich was the home of the famous Royal Greenwich Observatory. Astronomers started watching the stars at this observatory back in 1675, so it seemed like the most logical place to put the zero-degree line.

Around the World in 360

If you go west from England on your globe, pretty soon youll find a line marked 30. This is the longitude that is 30 degrees west. If you head east from London, youll find another line labeled 30. This line is the longitude thats 30 east.

If an airplane left Heathrow Airport in London and flew straight west, it would keep passing longitude lines with higher and higher numbers. If another airplane flew straight east from London, the same thing would happen. Finally, on the other side of the Earth, they would meet at the 180 line. The longitude numbers dont go and higher than 180.

Why 180? Because its half of 360, and circles are divided onto 360 degrees. Thousands of years ago, the ancient Babylonians had a habit of dividing circles into 360 degrees, and everyone has done the same thing ever since.

Polar Bearings 

If you are traveling from north to south (or vice versa), every time you go 69 miles, you reach another degree line. But if you are traveling from east to west, the degrees of longitude are not always the same distance apart. It depends on how far north or south you are. Why is this?

You will notice that the lines of longitude are pretty far apart at the equator. As they get closer to the North Pole and South Pole, the lines move closer together. These lines come together at the poles.

If you are traveling by ship along the line of the equator, you will have to go a little less than 70 miles to travel the length of one longitude degree. But what if you are closer to the South Pole? Much, much closer?

Let us say you were standing only 10 feet north of the South Pole. Some strange things happen with directions when you are that close to the South Pole. If you want to walk directly west, for example, you will have to walk in a circle. Picture yourself standing on the edge of that circle. After walking 62.8 feet to the west, you will be back where you started!

Now divide that circle into 360 degrees. Youll find that you only have to move forward about 2 inches for each degree of longitude.

If youre standing on the part of the circle thats directly south of Greenwich, England, youre at 0. Walk 26 inches to the east, and youll be at 13 east. Its hard to believe, but youre now directly south of Rome, Italy!

Global Travel

Just about everyone knows the old rule: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But if you look at a flat map of the world, the paths followed by airplanes and ships are not straight lines. They look like curves. That is because the world is round, not flat. The shortest distance between two points on the globe is a great circle route.

Lets say you are flying from Chicago to Tokyo. What if we followed that old rule about the shortest distance between tow points being a straight line? Think of the world in three dimensions, not two. A straight line from Chicago to Tokyo would have to go underground, through the earths surface, the hard rock of the earths mantle, and through its molten core an impossible route.

In reality, ships and planes follow a seemingly curved line from one point to another on the surface of the earth. Consider Tokyo, which is on a latitude south of Chicagos latitude. You would think an airplane flying from Chicago to Tokyo would head a little bit south as it flew to the west, right?

Wrong. The plane would fly northwest out of Chicago to Alaska before curving to the southwest to reach Tokyo. On a flap map, that looks like a long, curved route. But take a string and place it on the surface of your globe with one end on Chicago and the other end on Tokyo. If you stretch the string so it is taut against the globes surface, you will see that the shortest straight-line path from Chicago to Tokyo really passes through Alaska.



Synchronize your Watches

The earth orbits the sun on an elliptical (oval) path, taking a year to complete the trip. To be exact, it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. Since it takes a little more than 365 for the earth to finish the journey, we have leap years. Every four years, we add an extra day to the end of February.

The entire time the earth goes around the sun, it is also rotating on its axis once a day. As it rotates, the side facing the sun is bright with sunlight. The other half of the globe is in darkness. Because of the way the earth spins, the sun rises in the east every morning and sets in the west every evening. But when the sun is coming up in your part of the world, it is still dark in other areas. And in other places, it is midday. You can use your globe to figure out what time it is in other parts of the world.

Your globe is marked with 12 meridians extending from the North Pole down to the South Pole. Imagine that the sun is facing directly atop one of these meridian lines on your globe. That would mean it is noon in all of the places located along that meridian. Look at the prime meridian, the one that extends through Greenwich, England. Follow the line south from England. You will see that when the sun is at its highest point in the skies of England, it is also noon in many parts of Africa.

But, of course the earth is always revolving. And so two hours later, the sun would be directly above all the places on the next meridian line (30 to the west). Thus, it would be noon in Greenland.

The earth is divided into 24 time zones, each of which is centered on a meridian line. Some of the time-zone boundaries are far from being straight lines, however. All of China is in one time zone, for example, even though it takes four hours for the sun to cross that country. 

You can estimate the time difference between two places on the globe by counting how many meridian lines separate the two places. Places that are 30 degrees longitude apart on the globe are approximately two hours apart in time zones. Some globes have a time dial located at the top of the globe.

Lets say it is 1 oclock in the afternoon where you are now. Turn the time dial so that the 1 P.M. on the dial is facing toward the place on the globe where you are. The other numbers on the dial show what time it is on other parts of the world.



Time Traveling

The International Date Line is the place where each day begins. This line runs along the 180 meridian on your globe, through the Pacific Ocean. It is exactly halfway around the world from the prime meridian. There are a few places where the International Date Line zig-zags to allow the same time to exist in certain regions. (Examples are Russia, and the Aleutian Islands

Imagine that it is a Wednesday night, and you are on a ship floating on top of the International Date Line. The clock strikes midnight. For that moment, it is Wednesday everywhere in the world.

But for the next hour, it will be Thursday in the time zone just west of you. In the rest of the world, it will still be Wednesday.

An hour later, it will be Thursday in the two time zones just west of your ship. Meanwhile, it will be Wednesday in the other 22 time zones.

Each hour the clock strikes midnight at another meridian, and the calendar page flips over to Thursday in another slice of the planet.

After 23 hours, it is Thursday almost everywhere in the world. But it is still Wednesday in one time zonethe slice of the planet located just east of you, just east of the International Time Zone.

After another hour, it is midnight again on the International Date Line. And then Friday begins, and the whole process starts over again.

What happens if you cross the International Date Line? Lets say you are in an airplane flying from Asia toward North America, you are getting close to the date line, and it is 3 P.M. on Tuesday. When you cross the date line, suddenly it is 3 P.M. on Monday.

It is not exactly what science-fiction writers had in mind when they described time machines, but it is a way to travel back through time.

A Globe for all Seasons

In its proper orientation, your globe should look slightly tilted. That is because the north-south axis of earth is also tilted at a constant angle of 23.5 degrees from the plane of its orbit around the sun.

In late December, the top half of the earth is tilted away from the sun while the bottom half is tilted toward the sun. That is why it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere at that time of the year, while it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The suns rays strike the earth at more of a direct angle in the south. Also, the sun is visible in the sky for more hours in the south, while days are shorter in the north. 

By the time the earth gets around to the other side of the sun, however, the top half of the earth is tilted toward the sun, bringing summer to the Northern Hemisphere. The bottom half of the globe is tilted away from the sun, causing cold weather in the southern parts of the world. 

The parts of the world near the North and South Pole are always a little farther away from the sun than the other parts of the globe. Those zones are cold all year round. Meanwhile, the middle part of the globe is always getting more direct rays from the sun, so the equatorial zone is warm all year round.

On March 21, the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox, the suns rays shine directly at the equator. But three months later, on the summer solstice, June 21, the suns rays are shining toward the Tropic of Cancer, a line 23.5 degrees north of the equator. This is because the northern part of the world is tilting toward the sun at that time of the year.

Then on September 23rd, the autumnal equinox, the suns rays shine directly at the equator. And on December 22nd, the winter solstice, the suns rays shine directly at the Tropic of Capricorn, a line 23.5 degrees south of the equator.

The warm part of the world located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn is known as the equatorial zone or the tropics.



A Miniature Version of the Universe

Try to imagine your globe floating in space, surrounded by the rest of the universe. If your globe has a diameter of, say, 12 inches, that means the real earth is about 41.8 million times as big as your globe.

Stand next to your globe and try to picture how far away the moon would be. Place a ball about 3 inches in diameter a little larger than a baseball about 30 feet away from your globe. That is about how big the moon would be and how far away it would be. Picture that baseball (the moon) traveling in a circle around your globe every 27 days, 7 hours and 43 minutes., with the same side always facing toward the globe. That is similar to how the moon travels around the earth. Sometimes the baseball should be 31 feet, 10 inches away from the globe. Other times, it moves about 3 feet, 11 inches closer than that. (If your globe is larger or smaller than 12 inches in diameter, all of these numbers should be a little larger or smaller.)

Now try to picture how far away the sun would be. If the earth were as small as a 12-inch globe, the sun would be about 2.2 miles away from it. It would be a huge globe about 109 feet in diameter. So if you were standing with your globe in an open field, the sun would be about as big as a 10-story building more than 2 miles away.

The sun is a star, but it appears much larger and brighter than the stars in the night sky because it is so much closer to the earth than they are. The only reason we cannot see stars in the sky during the daytime is that the light from the sun overpowers their own light. The star that is closest to the sun is Proxima Centauri, but even that star is incredibly far away. If you traveled at the speed of light the fastest anything can travel, 186,282 miles per second it would still take you more than four years to reach Proxima Centauri and its next-door neighbors, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, shining in the sky at night, the light you are seeing was actually sent out by those stars over four years ago. Only now is that light reaching your eye on the earth. And most stars are much farther away from Proxima Centauri. The light we see in the sky from those stars is reaching us after traveling for thousands or even millions of years. For all we know, some of the stars we see in the sky may not even exist anymore. But if they have exploded or faded out, the news of these events would not reach us until many years after the stars have already met their fate.

A Globe in Every Home

In 1930, Luther Irwin Replogle began making globes in his basement in Chicago. He had lofty aspirations, hoping to put a globe in every home. Over the years, the small company he founded grew to become the worlds largest globe manufacturer. Today, Replogle globes can be found in homes around the world, including the White House in Washington D.C.

Replogle has focused on improving and expanding the art of globemaking. There is a wide variety of styles and sizes available. The globes display features such as raised relief, political boundaries and some globes can even be illuminated. Replogle craftsmen design beautiful metal meridians and detailed wood bases and stands for the globes.

Whether you are studying about explorations, wars that took place hundreds of years ago or listening to todays news about far away lands, a globe is the perfect way to see how important geography is in our lives.

Reprinted from:  "A guide to Your Globe" by Replogle Globes Inc.

 

       
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