Longest straight-line ocean path on planet Earth calculated

May 2, 2018 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report
Longest sailable straight line path on Earth. Credit: arXiv:1804.07389 [math.HO]

A pair of researchers, one with United Technologies Research Center, the other with IBM Research, has developed an algorithm that can be used to determine the longest straight-line path over water on Earth. In their paper uploaded to the arXiv preprint server, Rohan Chabukswar and Kushal Mukherjee describe their algorithm and what it revealed.

The two researchers created their algorithm in response to a post by an unknown person on Reddit (he has been identified as Patrick Anderson)—he posted what he claimed was the longest straight-line ocean trip possible on planet Earth. Along with the post was a graphic showing the proposed direct-line route, but no evidence of how it was found. Intrigued by the proposition, the two researchers wondered how they might actually calculate such a line. They knew that it would be possible to do it using a brute force approach, which would involve measuring the length of every stretch of ocean. But that, they noted, would likely require more computer power than they had. With a global map obtained from NOAA, which offered a resolution of 1.8 kilometers, they saw that a brute force approach would entail grinding through data describing over 230 billion great circles. And that would mean analyzing trillions of individual data points—clearly too much crunching for their available computer. To reduce the amount of work, they turned to mathematics—specifically, optimization algorithms called branch and bound. Such algorithms reduce the amount of searching by assigning routes to branches which themselves hold subsets of similar routes. As the algorithm runs, subsets are analyzed and branches eliminated, winnowing the amount of data requiring analysis until the branch that holds the solution is found.

By coding and running their and inputting the map data, the researchers found it took just ten minutes for their laptop to provide an answer. Interestingly, the answer was the same given by Anderson, who reportedly got his information from an unknown Wiki post. The line runs between a point on a shoreline in Pakistan all the way to a Russian shoreline—a distance of approximately 32,089.7 kilometers.

Longest driveable straight line path on Earth. Credit: arXiv:1804.07389 [math.HO]

Explore further: A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

More information: Longest Straight Line Paths on Water or Land on the Earth, arXiv:1804.07389 [math.HO] arxiv.org/abs/1804.07389

There has been some interest recently in determining the longest distance one can sail for on the earth without hitting land, as well as in the converse problem of determining the longest distance one could drive for on the earth without encountering a major body of water. In its basic form, this is an optimisation problem, rendered chaotic by the presence of islands and lakes, and indeed the fractal nature of the coasts. In this paper we present a methodology for calculating the two paths using the branch-and-bound algorithm.

Related Stories

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

A practical optimisation algorithm for big data applications

September 26, 2017

Numerous science and engineering applications require finding the lowest or highest value of a mathematical model. This is usually obtained computationally by running an optimisation algorithm. When working with big data ...

Improving machine learning with an old approach

December 22, 2015

Computer scientist Rong Ge has an interesting approach to machine learning. While most machine learning specialists will build an algorithm which molds to a specific dataset, Ge builds an algorithm which he can guarantee ...

Cheetah robot lands the running jump (w/ Video)

May 29, 2015

In a leap for robot development, the MIT researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs—making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously.

Recommended for you

Fish-inspired material changes color using nanocolumns

March 20, 2019

Inspired by the flashing colors of the neon tetra fish, researchers have developed a technique for changing the color of a material by manipulating the orientation of nanostructured columns in the material.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) May 02, 2018
Their path is unstable: it runs near 2 shores and into pirate-infested waters, which makes sailing very dangerous. And their Antarctica is missing its ice.
5 / 5 (1) May 02, 2018
Well G, if the pirates confronted mathematicians? I'd bet on the guy who can figure the angle & vector of laying an artillery barrage.

And G, don't worry, be happy. According to the denier shills for the carbon lobby... "We don't need no stinking ice clogging up our Poles!"
not rated yet May 02, 2018
Pirates wouldn't fight with mathematicians. Firstly, mathematicians don't usually fight, and secondly pirates would have nothing to gain from mathematicians, unless they have a conjecture they can't crack themselves for some useful purpose.

And btw, Poland is ice-free since 10,000 years ago.
not rated yet May 02, 2018
https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/28ktzt/you_can_just_barely_sail_north_from_norway_to/ and which shouldn't be payed from public money.

This article is about a different route (and that is not the important point; it's the algorithm). Also the research seems to be financed privately at least in part (IBM India; I don't know about UTRC Ireland, which is affiliated to a private entity and built in a university).
3 / 5 (2) May 02, 2018
Oh-oh...the flat earther's are not gonna like that one.
not rated yet May 02, 2018
Ok G, you got me with the Polacks... funnneee!

Butt the guy in Warsaw slipfalling off his front stoop is feeling everyone of those iced-over steps his toockas is tobogganing down.

It is my considered opinion that a seachange in Human History occurred about the 13th & 14th centuries when Humanity wised up that 'perspective' could be a useful tool.

The intricate winding helix of Art and Science radiated a beacon of hope across the world.

As much as reactionary tories whine, the twined rope of the Arts & Sciences has given Mankind the choice to climb out of the pit of ignorant superstition.

Yeah, obvious we're still climbing. With a few slipbacks along the way.

Using Artillery effectively, is dependent on mathematics, chemistry, metallurgy, cartography, signals, logistics and more.

Do you care to maybe start a charity to assist in paying the medical bills the pirates incur from a precisely measured rolling barrage?

The Liberal Arts can be a dangerous weapon!
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet May 02, 2018
The Liberal Arts can be a dangerous weapon!

Swashbuckling 101?
Piracy for Dummies?
not rated yet May 03, 2018
WG, I'm thinking Sun Tzu & Archimedes. Da Vinci & Machiavelli. Einstein & Patton.

The Arts & Sciences are two sides to the sane coin. It is no accident that the altright reactionaries deny the educational value of both.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.