Monday, December 1, 2008

Tough reference questions

It's been a while since I last posted on tough reference questions; the reader may recall two posts from 2007 that concerned the geographical distribution of personal names and the ranking of states according to obscure criteria, and some of you may remember my post about the relative usage frequency of English words from August, 2004. The other day I was again asked that familiar question, "if I dug a deep hole all the way to the other side of the earth, where would I come up?" However tempting, it's wrong to mask one's ignorance in such cases by scoffing dismissively ("What a dumb question?") or changing the subject ("Do you realize how hot it is at the center of the earth?"), and now such subterfuge is also completely unnecessary; just refer your patron to Tall Eye , which shows the patron the exact point on the map where he/she will emerge from the long dig. Tall Eye also advises the patron - should she decide to walk instead of dig - what sights can be enjoyed along the way on the long walk - going east, west, north or south - to her destination on the other side of the globe. (a simpler answer: "to find the antipode on a map, add 180 degrees to the longitude and flip the sign of the latitude")

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