back to article Scientists eye curvaceous Earth gravity map

The European Space Agency today unveiled a new gravity map of Earth put together using data from its Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite. The "geoid" represents "the surface of an ideal global ocean in the absence of tides and currents, shaped only by gravity", ESA explains, adding: "It …


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  1. Rob 101

    Forget the data

    I still say that's one of the coolest looking (real) space vehicles we've made.

    1. Tim
      Thumb Up

      Yep, it made me happier

      We are finally living in the future. Cool blue ion drive spaceships that look like something from a video game.

      NASA should send it* to map out the Tycho crater on the moon next.

      (*Yes, I know this is impossible.)

      1. McGough

        @Tim - Grrrr....ESA mission

        It's an ** ESA ** mission. Nothing to do with NASA.

        1. Tim

          Oops, sorry

          Would edit if I could.

          I'm even happier about it now if that helps.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Rob 101

      This thing really is aerodynamic.

      The extreme sensitivity of the sensors made it sensible to build it as a narrow and long shape rather than the proverbial slap-some-boxes-on-a-framework, with the ion drive to counter most of the deceleration. Likewise the usual solar panels would make for *lots* of additional drag.

      *might* start a trend but you do take a hit on not being able to point panels at right angles to the sun when you want.

  2. Andrew Barr


    So initiall people thought the world was flat, then they realised it was round. But science has just proved that it is just a blob flying around in space!!

    1. Pypes

      title etc

      I know your post wasn't terribly serious, but I really wish people would stop perpetuating the myth that people once believed the earth was flat as this has never been the case.

      Anyone who has ever stood on a cliff and looked out over the sea on a nice clear day will know how trivially easy it is to demonstrate the spherical nature of the earth.


      1. Tim

        Really? *Never* been the case?

        Care to prove the negative?

        Plenty of evidence against your point right here:

        Yes, by Columbus's time it was well understood (at least in the West; the Chinese believed in a flat earth up until the 17th century), but certainly people in ancient times were quite sure that the world was flat.

        If you're going to be pedantic at least try and be accurate.

        1. Pypes


          From your link

          "Aristotle accepted the spherical shape of the Earth on empirical grounds around 330 BC"

          So we have had empirical knowledge of a flat earth for the better part of the last 2 and a half millennia, the ignorance of idiots doesn't exactly chance that does it.

          If your going to post a link to prove your point at least try and not post a link that refutes your point.

          1. Tim


            Oh dear. No, my link most assuredly does not refute my point. My point, once again, is that people have, for a significant chunk of recorded history, believed in a flat earth, and consequently your assertion that nobody ever has is wrong.

            I'll take you through it slowly, again. You wrote that it has "never been the case" that people believed in a flat earth. I provided you with an article with dozens of references suggesting otherwise. Somehow you take the fact that people worked out that the world was round a long time ago as evidence against my argument.

            You then talk about "the ignorance of idiots" as if their ignorance somehow excluded their beliefs from your definition of 'people'. Are you really suggesting that Democritus was an 'ignorant idiot'? You may as well try to claim that it has 'never been the case that people believed in the Ether', since we now know it doesn't exist, or that people 'never believed in a geocentric universe'. Do you see how you are completely wrong here?

            1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

              Pypes is a witch Burn him!

              Look I know he's trying to point out the fact that even in ancient times, someone with a brain in their head kinda figured out that the earth was round.

              But the truth is that the ignorant masses didn't and believed the earth was flat.

              Heck I bet if we hopped in our time machine and went back to before the time of Kepler people would argue that the Sun circled the earth and not the other way around.

              That is everybody but the Mayans that is...

              1. Denarius Silver badge

                try again

                I doubt it.

                For most of human history the peasants were too busy trying to stay alive to think about geodes and all. BTW, the belief in an ancient belief in flat earth is mostly a 19th century invention by some expert by the name Samuel Longhorn Clements.

                and dont quote wakipedia if one wishes to be taken seriously.

                Some of it is suprisingly good, especially in technical, but the rest...

        2. Chemist

          "people in ancient times"

          Well the ancient Greeks knew it was sperical

          Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth without leaving Egypt in ~250BC

          Any seafaring nation would know. Your dad's ship drops over the horizon and a couple of days later he's back - great - well it is if you like him. The Chinese theorists thought the Earth was flat but I bet their sailors had other ideas.

        3. Tom Samplonius


          "the Chinese believed in a flat earth up until the 17th century)"... I don't know where you got this, but the orbit of the moon around the earth was very important to the Chinese emperor, as being unable to produce an accurate schedule of lunar eclipses could result in immediate loss of position. It is hard to determine when they exactly understood this, but Jesuit's introduced sinusoidal geometry to China, and jointly worked with the Chinese to produce the Shixian calendar in 1645. At this point, the shape of the earth would have quite clear. And 1645 is the 15th century, not the 17th.

          1. Anonymous Coward


            Uhhh, no. 1645 is the 17th Century. The 17th century being from 1601 to 1700

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Flat Earth

      I'm not sure whether you're just saying so for the purposes of your joke but the Earth was never believed to be flat. As far back as the ancient Greeks the world was calculated to be spherical. The idea that medieval science believed the world to be flat was first let loose in (I think) the Victorian era.

  3. Forget It

    New logo for Firefox 4?

    Almost a logo for you once favourite browser!

    1. dssf

      the foxes EYES?

      or the foxes MARBLES? Two high, two low, which way to you go?

  4. James Pickett

    And in the Maldives..?

    Makes one wonder about the alleged relationship between climate change and sea level. If the gravity depends on the variable density of a partially fluid core, is it fair to assume that the map will change?

  5. James Pickett


    "the myth that people once believed the earth was flat "

    I think Terry Pratchett could explain it better than I...

    1. Mark Serlin

      Re: And in the Maldives..?

      It should change I think, especially after some catastrophic thing like the recent earthquake or maybe even the Icelandic volcano thing.

  6. Monty Cantsin

    Explains a lot..

    From another article I read, yellow is higher gravitational effect, and blue is lower.

    My bit of the world being in a yellow area therefore tells me I'm not overweight, just being gravitationally discriminated against.

    Nom, nom, nom.

    1. Richard Scratcher

      It also explains...

      ...why the Brazilians are so good at football.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That explains a lot

      That explains why I was heavier in the USA than in Europe... and I thought it had been the food.

  7. wayne 8

    and how did they pay for it?

    With four words "affected by climate change."

  8. Pigeon

    Conspiracy theory

    The earth is flat. This is the same Navel orange as in the Mercury messenger photograph, but kicked about the office a bit, and sprayed with colours, instead of the grey hammerite.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Now we're screwed!

    Can't be long now before some alien nicks the earth and sends it in to the "amusingly shaped planet" spot on their local equivalent of "That's Life".

    "Funny one this week Estrr. H'klzat Iiiiifmr has sent in a planet which bears a striking resemblance to King Oktuflt IV's seventh reproductive spheroid. The interesting bit is that, like those nasty rumours about the King's wossanames, it had some odd things living on it! <gales of audience laughter>"

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    spacex will be eying this with interest.

    A significantly improved gravity map can *substantially* reduce uncertainty in capsule guidance at the expense of more CPU cycles.

    When space rated CPU's (the Shuttles GPC upgrade bought it up to a whopping 1MIPS) this was an issue (part of the reason the speed of sound used in the software is 1000fps).

    With modern space processors into the 100s of MIPS that improved accuracy can be taken advantage of. With propellant at c$60/lb this is a good thing to save.

    Thumbs up to ESA for this piece of precision instrumentation.

  11. mhenriday

    Anyone else

    who sees more than a passing resemblance between the ESA geoid and the Venus von Willendorf ( ? Mother Earth, indeed !...


  12. Bill Neal


    Liebig, such an unfortunate name

    1. Michael Dunn


      It _is_ pronounced leebig, you know - think of the condenser.

  13. Mark Serlin

    Well done you

    because so far no-one has referred to gravity as a "force".

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