A Gravity Model of the Earth

A video has been circulating the internet that a lot of people (myself included) are misinterpreting as the true shape of Planet Earth. This isn't necessarily false, but there is a definite difference in how each of us are defining the word "shape"...

This multi-colored potato is not the normal, observable shape of the Earth, but rather a "mathematical figure" according to gravity (as described by Gauss). The spinning animation that GOCE released last Friday is exaggerated by a factor of 7,000 to highlight its irregularities - making it look more like a rotten grape than a spheroid. It shows, specifically, what Earth's geoid would look like if every single location was perpendicular to its gravitational field. In other words, if you were to place a marble anywhere on the surface, this shape would allow for it to stay put instead of rolling around. Some scientists say that this figure is a more accurate description of the "shape" of our planet - but these are also usually the same scientists blessed with a complete visual understanding of the fourth dimension.

The completion of Earth's geoid map is incredibly important for determining ocean circulation, magma distribution, and information about polar ice sheets. What's so cool about this release is that the information has never before been so accurately compiled. GOCE developed instruments that were able to detect the weakness of gravity's force within 1-2 centimeters of vertical accuracy!

Just remember: it's not an actual snapshot of what our blue planet looks like. Click here if you want to read more about the technical information from Scientific American.


  1. I followed your tumblr blog underwater castles and thought you'd appreciate this: http://bit.ly/fkIA5t


  2. Wow, that is so awesome! I love it every time reality becomes a bit more un-real. Thanks for sharing.