Saima Khan


In November 1884, the NEW YORK TIMES ran a pretty interesting story, an astronomer known by the name “Arndt”, claimed to have discovered a cubic planet which was just beyond the orbit of Neptune, less than 100 years later another discovery was made. This time by a man who not only named the planets but who also had maps, sketches of its alien life forms. All planets are round, but have you ever wondered why?  Let us understand this by going back in time. Just imagine we are going to 4.5 billion years ago. A big cloud of gas and dust called a nebula collapsed to form a hot star which through its gravitational pull attracted all nearby matter and formed a large rotating disk around its center. After more than just a few collisions, the matter orbiting the young sun eventually grew into massive bodies with strong gravitational centers. They formed planets. Inside any given planet, gravity pulls equally from all sides towards its center. This leads to the spherical shape so because the EARTH we live on is a kind of sphere and its gravitational pull is the same wherever you go. It means that as long as you are on a flat surface you will be standing straight and tall. 

But what do you think happens when you skew the distribution of gravity? You want to live a life on the edge? Then pick a side! The earth has six faces now, but sadly none of them are any fun. This is because anywhere you go is going to feel like you are climbing up a steep hill. On the cubed earth the gravity is strongest at the center of each of its faces. So the further you are away from the center, the more you will feel its pull. The landscape along the Earth’s edges would be rocky and barren. Since all the water would be pooled at the center of each face AND the atmospheric quality along the Earth’s edges and corners would be too thin to support the life or non-existent. The new climate would depend on how the Earth rotates. If our cubed planet rotated on an axis through two of its faces, then the climate would be kind of like how it is right now on Earth, only more extreme. The top and the bottom faces would be polar while the remaining four sides would enjoy an equatorial climate. However, if the earth was a cube that rotated through its corners, then each side would have a temperate climate. You could say goodbye to extreme temperatures and precipitations. This means saying goodbye to your equatorial fantasy world too. 

But on the positive side, you might just be able to walk into outer space. Since our atmosphere is held down by gravity and we know that gravity is now pulling from the center of each of Earth’s faces, it means that the atmosphere would be thicker where gravity is strongest and thinner towards the edges. What’s more, if the cubic earth had the same volume as our rounded world today, its sharp and steep corners would actually poke beyond our atmosphere. These areas would be unprotected and therefore uninhabitable. What we will call ourselves on this six-sided earth? THE CUBISTS…OR CUBANS? We will never find out…and that is probably for the best of all things. 

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