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March 2024 A novel estimator of Earth’s curvature (Allowing for inference as well)
David R. Bell, Olivier Ledoit, Michael Wolf
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Ann. Appl. Stat. 18(1): 585-599 (March 2024). DOI: 10.1214/23-AOAS1802


This paper estimates the curvature of the Earth, defined as one over its radius, without relying on physical measurements. The orthodox model states that the Earth is (nearly) spherical with a curvature of π/20,000km. By contrast, the heterodox flat-Earth model stipulates a curvature of zero. Abstracting from the well-worn arguments for and against both models, rebuttals and counter-rebuttals ad infinitum, we propose a novel statistical methodology based on verifiable flight times along regularly scheduled commercial airline routes; this methodology allows for both estimating and making inference for Earth’s curvature. In particular, a formal hypothesis test resolutely rejects the flat-Earth model, whereas it does not reject the orthodox spherical-Earth model.


The authors would like to thank an Associate Editor and the Editor for their constructive comments that improved the quality of this paper.


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David R. Bell. Olivier Ledoit. Michael Wolf. "A novel estimator of Earth’s curvature (Allowing for inference as well)." Ann. Appl. Stat. 18 (1) 585 - 599, March 2024.


Received: 1 May 2023; Revised: 1 July 2023; Published: March 2024
First available in Project Euclid: 31 January 2024

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/23-AOAS1802

Keywords: Flat Earth , flight times , nonlinear least squares , ‎trigonometry

Rights: Copyright © 2024 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.18 • No. 1 • March 2024
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