What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

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Moose Anus
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What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Moose Anus » Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:40 pm UTC

Visit Every State

Image

Anyone have a copy of Randall's airplane route code?
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby mathmannix » Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:51 pm UTC

For those looking for a more practical (quite possibly replicable) approach to covering a plethora of states, check out Barry Stiefel's website!

He covered 50 states in a week's vacation (starting after work Friday, and finishing on Sunday 9 days later) This was a round trip driving around the 48 contiguous states, starting and ending at his home city in California, followed by brief flights to HI and AK, sleeping at least 5 hours or so each night. He drove by himself, eating military MRE's while driving.

Later, he covered 21 states in "one day" (from just after midnight to just before midnight), although he got two +1 hour bonuses - a time zone change, and a bump from the end of daylight savings time.
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Beavertails » Thu Sep 25, 2014 1:24 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:Later, he covered 21 states in "one day" (from just after midnight to just before midnight), although he got two +1 hour bonuses - a time zone change, and a bump from the end of daylight savings time.


Cheating, but in a way I approve of.

I wonder if it is possible to visit all 50 states via continuous water travel. I'm assuming that taking into account streams and whatnot (and a lightweight flat bottom kayak or something) you could get close, though I imagine the continental divide would be a bitch, and the route would likely involve a LOT of backtracking after reaching the tougher destinations.

Still though... I wonder if it can be done...
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby cellocgw » Thu Sep 25, 2014 1:29 pm UTC

Beavertails wrote:I wonder if it is possible to visit all 50 states via continuous water travel. I'm assuming that taking into account streams and whatnot (and a lightweight flat bottom kayak or something) you could get close, though I imagine the continental divide would be a bitch, and the route would likely involve a LOT of backtracking after reaching the tougher destinations.

Still though... I wonder if it can be done...


No problem -- just wait a few years for the ocean sea level to rise :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

But I have to say this was one of the most fun what-ifs in a while. Or maybe I'm one of those math-nerds who loves to see great circles just barely nipping the corners of a bunch of states.
Now, what if we tried the Vampire Method? According to the original novel IIRC Dracula's coffin had to be in the soil of his native country, so a gob of said soil was transported with the coffin. In our current situation, all we need to do is collect a few cc of dirt from all 50 states and we can complete the crossing in milliseconds!
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Ekaros » Thu Sep 25, 2014 1:58 pm UTC

Now can we have same for Europe and whole world?

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby airdrik » Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:36 pm UTC

citation 2 wrote:The X-15 rocket plane, which was about twice as fast as the SR-71, was an example of the rockets discussed in last week's article—it originally used alcohol as its fuel. They later switched to ammonia.

Which "last week's article" is he referring to that discusses rockets (of which the SR-71 is an example)? Certainly not the Balloon car article, or did I miss the reference in my search for "rocket"?

edit: fix quote
Last edited by airdrik on Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:20 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby osroot » Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:05 pm UTC

this is the best approximation with 4 lines I got, damn nerd sniping...

I know that these are straight lines only on this projection and not in the real world.

Without Utah, there would be a much better approximation:
Texas would be hit by the south horizontal line, so the line which hits maine could hit South Carolina and Vermont better

the north horizontal line, in this projection, has a good chance to hit southernwest islands of alaska in the Bering Sea, yet hawaii isn't reached.
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Mikeski » Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:17 pm UTC

It's nice to see he included DC.

What about all the other non-state parts of the US: Guam and Puerto Rico and such? (Foooom)

And, legally, US embassies are American soil. (Foooom)

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Sandor » Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:30 pm UTC


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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:38 pm UTC

How about accessing images from webcams located in every state? Would that count as "visiting"?

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Kounosuke » Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:37 pm UTC

Ekaros wrote:Now can we have same for Europe and whole world?


I spent a couple of hours tinkering away at Google Earth trying to create the solution for Europe, and the best I can get is with 6. There's a lot of tiny countries to get through, doubt a 5 solution exists.

Code: Select all

Portugal-Spain-Andorra-France-Monaco-France-Italy-(Croatia-Bosnia)x3-Croatia-Serbia-Romania-Moldova-Ukraine-Russia-Kazakhstan
Iceland-Denmark-Germany-(Poland-Czech)x6-Slovakia-Hungary-Romania-Bulgaria-Turkey-Cyprus
Ireland-UK-France-Germany-Switzerland-Liechtenstein-Austria-Switzerland-Italy-Slovenia-Croatia-Bosnia-Montenegro-Albania-(Kosovo)-Macedonia-Greece-Turkey
Iceland-Denmark-UK-Netherlands-Belgium-Luxembourg-France-(Switzerland-Italy)x3-Malta
(Norway-Sweden)x4-Denmark-Germany-Czech-Germany-Austria-Italy-San Marino-Italy-Vatican City-Italy (I stopped this line at Vatican in the pic to avoid effing it up)
Russia-Finland-Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania-(Belarus-Poland)x2-Slovakia-Ukraine-Hungary-(Romania-Serbia)x3-(Kosovo)-Macedonia-(Albania-Greece)x2

Had to create an account to share so can't post image URL kindly, it's at (add punctuation) i imgur com JNrrvv2 png
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby krkeegan » Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:42 pm UTC

I always enjoy reading anything Randall writes. But I have to agree with other comments, that this has been my favorite what-if in a long time. This was a lot of fun.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Barstro » Thu Sep 25, 2014 5:34 pm UTC

It kind of makes a bit of sense that what is basically a grid with a whole lot of vertical lines and a couple horizontal (with three intersecting at one point) could be trumped by getting rid of two horizontal and adding a vertical.

Sure, that's in hindsight,
And relies on the layout of the country
And has no actual logical basis as far as I know
But still, when I saw the change, my small mind said "yep, makes sense".

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby pistons9876 » Thu Sep 25, 2014 6:12 pm UTC

Should be pretty straightforward to find a minimum number of lines.

1) Generate an exhaustive list of groups of states that can be covered by 1 line.
This set must be finite given that there are a finite number of states. The easiest way is first, start with a very large set of lines (pick ~1,000,000 different 'angles' and then move each line by 1 foot at a time). Then compute the coverages of each line. Remove any duplicates (lines covering the same set of states). There is certainly more rigorous and/or efficient way of generating this set, but rather than getting nerd-sniped, i'll leave this part to someone else.

2) Convert this list to an integer programming problem:
Objective function:
minimize number of selected lines
Constraints:
one for each line
one for each state

This will be a very big problem, but there are tools to solve very large integer problems.

It may be (more) interesting to find the minimum delta-v required to for a solution with a fixed number of lines. I imagine this would result in a series of nearly-parallel lines.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby dbam987 » Thu Sep 25, 2014 6:22 pm UTC

What about solution(s) that cross over Puerto Rico and American Samoa?? DC was included! :P

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby rhomboidal » Thu Sep 25, 2014 6:33 pm UTC

Trying to calculate how fast you could visit all countries instead of states might endanger every nerd in the world, and we wouldn't want to do that.

Or would we...?

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby topynate » Thu Sep 25, 2014 6:45 pm UTC

My strategy for a brute-force mathematical solution would be something like:
Get GIS data for state boundaries at high resolution.
Change to gnomonic projection, so that great circles become straight lines.
Go to a lower resolution, taking polygons of average side ~10km or more, such that each polygon completely encloses one state. Note that these polygons will overlap slightly.
Find the set of maximal sets of collinear polygons by linear programming. E.g for each of the 1225 pairs of polygons, use linear programming to find which polygons are collinear for some choice of line, then iteratively expand those sets in turn until a fixed point is reached. If at any point one set is a subset of another set, discard the smaller set. The geometry will keep the total number of linear programming problems fairly small (thousands, not millions).
Use the high resolution data to check that the solutions for the lower resolution polygons apply to the non-overlapping states themselves.
Find the minimal set cover of the set of maximal sets of collinear polygons/states. That's NP-complete, but luckily we already have an upper bound of 5, so we just need to check every set of four maximal sets of collinear states.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:00 pm UTC

Beavertails wrote:I wonder if it is possible to visit all 50 states via continuous water travel. I'm assuming that taking into account streams and whatnot (and a lightweight flat bottom kayak or something) you could get close, though I imagine the continental divide would be a bitch, and the route would likely involve a LOT of backtracking after reaching the tougher destinations.

I'm almost certain it's possible if you're allowed to travel out into oceans. You don't even need to go around other continents, though you'll need to skirt a little bit of Mexican and Canadian shore. Start with a tributary of the Colorado River, sail up and down all its tributaries as necessary to hit all the states they touch, which is most of the west. Sail out into the Gulf of California, around Baja California, and across the Pacific to Hawaii, then up to Alaska, and back down past British Columbia through Washington to the Oregon border at the mouth of the the Columbia River. (It's OK to skip California because the Colorado already touched its border). Follow any of the Columbia's tributaries as necessary to hit states only they might reach, until eventually you hit the Parting of the Ways in Wyoming (the continental divide), from which you can connect to a tributary of the Mississippi River, from which you can reach tributaries reaching pretty much every other inland state you might care to mention. Eventually exit that river network in Louisiana, then sail around the South and up the Atlantic coast to Maine and you're done.
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Beavertails » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:34 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:and you're done.


I don't know. Seems like it could be somewhat more efficiently done. I wonder what the shortest path is... :D
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby mathmannix » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:42 pm UTC

Beavertails wrote:
mathmannix wrote:Later, he covered 21 states in "one day" (from just after midnight to just before midnight), although he got two +1 hour bonuses - a time zone change, and a bump from the end of daylight savings time.


Cheating, but in a way I approve of.

I wonder if it is possible to visit all 50 states via continuous water travel. I'm assuming that taking into account streams and whatnot (and a lightweight flat bottom kayak or something) you could get close, though I imagine the continental divide would be a bitch, and the route would likely involve a LOT of backtracking after reaching the tougher destinations.

Still though... I wonder if it can be done...


I don't think Utah is possible with continuous water travel. The only parts of Nevada and Utah that are not part of the Great Basin, shut off completely from the sea, are the parts that are part of the Colorado River basin:
Spoiler:
Image

Now, I don't really know if the rest of the Colorado River is navigable along the Arizona/California border (which you would need for Nevada), but there's no way to get past Hoover Dam in your kayak without walking a bit.

Interestingly enough, check out this spot on Google Maps:

It shows the headwaters of the Colorado River is about 50 feet away from La Poudre Pass Creek, which you could follow down to the Cache La Poudre River -> South Platte River -> Platte River -> Missouri River -> Mississippi River.
However, I think most of these mountain streams are very whitewater rapids-y. Possible to go downstream (maybe!) but definitely not upstream.
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby osroot » Thu Sep 25, 2014 8:02 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:...

I don't think Utah is possible with continuous water travel.
...


Another reason to don't like Utah, let us just ignore it :wink:

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Flumble » Thu Sep 25, 2014 9:46 pm UTC

It's trivial to find out whether Utah is reachable by water. Just apply flood-fill (with a distinct colour, like magenta) on the oceans and see if there's any magenta in Utah. :mrgreen:

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby stoppedcaring » Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:08 pm UTC

How are we doing on coming up with a 4-pass route over the Lower 48? I can get everything but Washington if we allow a pass over the Four Corners Monument to count for all four states. Of course, I'm using straight lines, not great circles; I don't know if that would affect the final result or not.

Image

Avoiding intersection of the lines seems to be the best approach, as this avoids crossover and wasted airspace. In this example, the only states visited more than once are New York and California.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby osroot » Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:28 pm UTC

great result!

which leaves me now with a question to people who know this:

we have, at least, the following possibilities:

"straight nothern border of US" plus straight lines
"straight nothern border of US" plus great circles
"round nothern border of US" plus straight lines
"round nothern border of US" plus great circles

can anyone please tell me/us, which of these is correct and/or which is better(in correctness) than which?

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Various Varieties » Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:54 pm UTC

Regarding the alt-text for this image:

Image

"Through a random coincidence, three of the lines in this version crossed within an area of about 100 meters square somewhere near the Virginia/West Virginia border."


Come on, you can't expect people to leave it at that!

So I issue a challenge to the forum. For your next mission - find that place!

Is that area publicly accessible? If so, someone ought to stand there holding a copy of the xkcd What-If book (or at least a printout of an Xkcd strip) and pose for a photo.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Eternal Density » Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:03 pm UTC

Why is xkcd 356 both included and linked?
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby keithl » Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:38 pm UTC

There are much faster alternatives.

Evacuated tube transport and the similar Hyperloop would require a lot of construction, and 10 gee turns, but could hit all the states faster, presuming a very high speed starting pass through Alaska and ending pass through Hawaii.

A cheaper but more painful approach involves two surgeries (disassembly and assembly), fast airplanes, and ice chests, presuming that only parts of you must travel to each state. This would be the clear winner if you increased the budget and used 98 ballistic missiles for the outbound and return journeys.

If you were required to "set foot" in each state, the surgical approach would take longer, but only half the time if you have an ischiopagus parasitic twin and four feet to use for the project.

If reassembly is not required, then a single fast missile to about 8000 km over the ocean west of San Diego, followed by a nuclear explosion, will deposit a few of your atoms on every state. They might take too long to drift from the top of the mesosphere to the ground, though.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby wolfticket » Fri Sep 26, 2014 12:21 am UTC

I think the fastest way to physically visit every state in a conventional sense of the word would be a supersonic VTOL aircraft. Maybe the F-35B.

That way you remove the limitation of having to approach and land at airports. Also you can hop over close borders without having to gain much altitude or speed while still covering longer legs extremely rapidly at altitude without detours. Pre-planned refueling could be performed quickly on the ground rather than aerially so to not compromise cruising speed.

I would imagine the most efficient would a combination of longer legs between hubs where landing points are relatively close together, then shorter hops between these (even if it is not the shortest route). One could probably work it out...

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Mikeski » Fri Sep 26, 2014 12:50 am UTC


Well, that was no fun. I didn't get any discussion of hitting all the embassies (is helicopter travel faster than jets + multiple trips through customs?), or of exactly how American an American embassy is. My nerd-sniping sucks.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby dtilque » Fri Sep 26, 2014 1:47 am UTC

When I first examined at the six-line solution, I was fairly certain it could be improved. It has one line which is almost redundant: it's the only line that goes through Oklahoma and maybe Delaware (hard to say about that) but that's all it's needed for. Also, the one going through Alaska is only need for that plus Washington. So I wasn't surprised that a 5-line solution could be found.

Ekaros wrote:Now can we have same for Europe and whole world?


I was thinking all 50 states plus all 10 Canadian provinces. But the 5-line solution already gets 6 or 7 provinces (not sure if it gets New Brunswick because the map of Maine looks a bit wrong) and it should be simple to add a single line to get the others. We'd have to add the three Canadian territories to make things tougher. But if we added those, we'd also have to add PR, Virgin Is, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby elenaran » Fri Sep 26, 2014 5:05 am UTC

mathmannix wrote:I don't think Utah is possible with continuous water travel. The only parts of Nevada and Utah that are not part of the Great Basin, shut off completely from the sea, are the parts that are part of the Colorado River basin:

Now, I don't really know if the rest of the Colorado River is navigable along the Arizona/California border (which you would need for Nevada), but there's no way to get past Hoover Dam in your kayak without walking a bit.

Interestingly enough, check out ... on Google Maps:

It shows the headwaters of the Colorado River is about 50 feet away from La Poudre Pass Creek, which you could follow down to the Cache La Poudre River -> South Platte River -> Platte River -> Missouri River -> Mississippi River.
However, I think most of these mountain streams are very whitewater rapids-y. Possible to go downstream (maybe!) but definitely not upstream.



Not only that, but the biggest obstacle is that the Colorado isn't navigable from the Gulf of California to Arizona. There is a dam right on the Arizona/Mexico border that diverts all but a trickle for irrigation purposes. Most of the Colorado "River" below the Mexican border is just a dry riverbed.

From my estimation, you wouldn't be able to reach the following states by boat: Montana, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming. Possibly also North Dakota, but there's a chance you could canoe/kayak down the James River to the Missouri.

The biggest surprises to me were South Dakota (Missouri R), Oklahoma (Arkansas R), and Idaho (Columbia R).

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby azule » Fri Sep 26, 2014 8:54 am UTC

I don't mind the ridiculousness of using space travel to "visit" the states. I prefer that all what-ifs go to their extremes. But is that part of the air space considered part of that state? I might even think that the US (the whole thing not the individual states) controls that part of the air, whereas individual states might control everything below Low Earth Orbit (or something reasonable). The real answer is probably "visiting" via one of those jets.

Eternal Density wrote:Why is xkcd 356 both included and linked?
That's why I came here, to discuss "nerd sniping". I noticed that, too. So, is this the first full "reprint" of an xkcd comic in a what-if? Why not just link instead of posting it? It appears that the red dots are slightly larger than in the original comic. So this is probably not from an original layered version, but was simply graymasked (to get the what-if image transparency).
Image

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby speising » Fri Sep 26, 2014 9:56 am UTC

space (as defined as above 100km) is officially international territory.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby ThemePark » Fri Sep 26, 2014 10:24 am UTC

Ekaros wrote:Now can we have same for Europe and whole world?

No, but you can have something better than that.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 26, 2014 3:46 pm UTC

Beavertails wrote:
mathmannix wrote:Later, he covered 21 states in "one day" (from just after midnight to just before midnight), although he got two +1 hour bonuses - a time zone change, and a bump from the end of daylight savings time.


Cheating, but in a way I approve of.

I wonder if it is possible to visit all 50 states via continuous water travel. I'm assuming that taking into account streams and whatnot (and a lightweight flat bottom kayak or something) you could get close, though I imagine the continental divide would be a bitch, and the route would likely involve a LOT of backtracking after reaching the tougher destinations.

Still though... I wonder if it can be done...


Technically, you probably could hit most of them. However, it's going to require significant coastal traveling, with many practical difficulties. Merely kayaking the Mississippi is a significant undertaking, and that's inland waters, going with the current. Kayaking to Hawaii would be kind of out there. Missisissippi river system and eastern seaboard alone gets you a great number of states, tho.

I *believe* N. Dakota is accessible via the red river valley. Note that water levels vary significantly there, but with the right water level, it'd actually be a pretty easy float.

Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are likely to be among the largest challenges, because they're just dry as hell, and awkwardly placed. A lucky flood probably ain't gonna get you there.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Moose Anus » Fri Sep 26, 2014 3:46 pm UTC

Various Varieties wrote:
"Through a random coincidence, three of the lines in this version crossed within an area of about 100 meters square somewhere near the Virginia/West Virginia border."


Come on, you can't expect people to leave it at that!

So I issue a challenge to the forum. For your next mission - find that place!

Is that area publicly accessible? If so, someone ought to stand there holding a copy of the xkcd What-If book (or at least a printout of an Xkcd strip) and pose for a photo.
It looks like it's probably in the National Radio Quiet Zone.
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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Shifty » Fri Sep 26, 2014 4:29 pm UTC

It's interesting to do a back of the envelope calculation for how much fuel Randall's 5-pass method would take. It looks like you could launch into a polar orbit from Cape Canaveral. (Note: Polar launches are not actually permitted from Cape Canaveral because those launch paths pass over inhabited areas, but ignore that.) From that point you'd have to make one ~60° correction after one orbit, then another 30° correction a couple orbits later, then a final 15° correction for the final pass. A total of about 105° of inclination change. The formula for inclination change cost comes from trigonometry:

dVtot=2*V0*(sin(θ/2))=2*7.8 km/s*(sin(105°/2))=12.37 km/s

This is far more delta-V than any spacecraft has ever carried into space. I believe New Horizons had the fastest Earth relative speed after launch at 16.3 km/s, which means it had about 8.5 km/s more than needed to reach LEO. It would've needed ~4 km/s more to perform these maneuvers.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby Polixenes » Fri Sep 26, 2014 4:40 pm UTC

If you were suspended from a very long rope (200 miles or so long, but short enough that you don't scrape the mountain tops) from the satellite making the passes across the USA, and injected a side to side swinging motion as you traveled, could you cover more states per pass than just those on a direct line below the satellite? Maybe you could manage 4 passes or fewer that way.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby bigglesworth » Fri Sep 26, 2014 4:53 pm UTC

Kounosuke wrote:I spent a couple of hours tinkering away at Google Earth trying to create the solution for Europe, and the best I can get is with 6. There's a lot of tiny countries to get through, doubt a 5 solution exists.
You're lucky that one of your vertical lines goes through western Ukraine.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

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Re: What-If 0113: "Visit Every State"

Postby keithl » Fri Sep 26, 2014 10:54 pm UTC

There is a very fast way, given some form of unobtainium with infinite strength and zero thermal conductivity. DOWN.

The political boundaries of the states stop somewhere in the atmosphere - they certainly don't extend into space. But the rock below extends to the center of the earth. Each state is a wedge of rock, mantle, magma, nickel, and iron extending down to a point at the center, that point shared with every other wedge of rock representing other states and other countries.

Build a long unobtainium vacuum tunnel through the exact center of the earth, with some maglev drivers to accelerate you downwards at 10 gees and deflect your passenger capsule against coriolis acceleration. About 6 minutes after you start your powered descent, you will pass through the center of the earth, and the bottom wedge point of every state and every other country, at 38 km/s. Over a few microsecond interval, you will visit every place on (er, in) earth.

You should now IMMEDIATELY switch to 10 gee deceleration, or you will fire out of the hole into the atmosphere for a brief high gee deceleration, then a fast trip out of the solar system.

As you arrive at the far side surface station, on a barge somewhere in the south Indian ocean if you start in the US, you will probably have to remain there, as you have vastly exceeded the speed limits in every municipality on the planet, and trespassed on every restricted site and parcel of state and private property.


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