## A Mountain on Earth Taller Than The Mt. Everest

### Background

Of course there are taller mountains than the Everest. Like if you consider the whole solar system, the tallest mountain is in Mars. It is about 2.5 times the height of Mt. Everest, and had it been on Earth, going to its peak would have required you to wear a space suit. It is about 21 km tall!

But here on earth, you’d think Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain. No, it is not. In fact, the peak of Mt. Everest is of course the Highest peak. So, it is the “Highest” mountain, not the “tallest”. The tallest one would be the Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Subtle differences, you see…

Tallest means – Measuring the mountain from its base to the peak. (Which seems pretty fair to me, but it isn’t the norm).
Highest means – Measuring the mountain from the sea level to the peak.

### Measuring Heights

Mountain peaks are measured from the sea level. Suppose a mountain is in the sea, the part of it which lies below the sea isn’t added to it’s height. So a mountain lying in the sea says, “unfair!”

Measuring sea level in turn is another complex problem because the sea isn’t at the same level everywhere. In fact, the sea level is much higher at the base of a mountain because the mountain’s mass increases the gravity and pulls the sea water making it higher there. Even if there isn’t any sea around mount Everest, the calculated sea level (higher than normal) is used as the base of the mountain. From this raised sea level to the peak, Mt. Everest measures 8,848 m.

This is how sea level is calculated:

Therefore, Mt.  Everest is 8,848 meters tall, because there is no part of it which is under the sea (because there is no sea there). Also, Mt. Everest is 8,848 meters high because its peak is 8,848 meters from the calculated sea level.

### Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii, is not popularly known because it’s peak is just 4207 m above the sea level. So, it is 4,207 meters high. Mt. Everest is much higher!

But the important thing to note is that a huge part of the volcano is under the sea level. In other words, its base is on the ocean bed, not on land. So, if measured from the base, it is 10,100 meters tall! That is more than 1.2 kilometres taller than the mount Everest.

That means, if there were no sea, Mauna Kea would have been a clear winner. Think of it this way – Suppose you cut both the mountain at their bases and place them on a huge flat land, Kea would be 1.2 kilometers higher! Given it is not a constant, I wonder why “sea level” is used as a standard to measure heights of mountains.

Clearly, Kea should be known better. School text books should at least have a mention of it.

### Another Twist

Now if you think that is all I have to say about the highest and tallest things, you are wrong. There are all sorts of complex measurements we can do. What if, you start measuring the height of a mountain from the centre of the earth?

I don’t think that would be fair given the odd shape of earth – It is about 42 km farther across the equator than it is at the poles. That is too much distance to ignore. Had earth been a perfect sphere, this measurement would have made sense.

Nevertheless, let’s imagine that we have started measuring the height of a mountain peak by measuring its distance from the centre of the earth. In that case, Mt. Chimborazo, an ice-capped inactive volcano and the highest mountain in Ecuador, would have been the highest one. Even with a peak which is at an elevation of 6,268 meters from the sea level, it is still the most distant place from the centre of the earth. The peak of it is 6,384 km from the centre, while that of Mt. Everest is 6,382 km from the centre of the earth. In some way, even Chimborazo is taller than Mt. Everest. Still, we’re never taught about it in schools!

If there are any science teachers reading this, please tell these things to the kids. I’ll be honoured!

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## Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham and Other Major World Religions

###### By Anupum Pant

So, despite being aware of its intimidating 3-hour length, with an open mind, I decided to watch the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate last night. For a better focus I chose a time when everything around was super quite (0000 hrs to 0300 hrs) and hence, I was able to attentively watch it right from the first second to the very last second. Before starting, I had my mind cleared of all the prejudices and was ready to embrace the most logical points coming from any one of them. Yes, I was even willing to accept that the earth is six thousand years old, if Ken Ham would have  produced sound arguments.

Although there were no winners or losers in that debate, for me, Bill Nye’s arguments were clearly moving – in the sense that he was able to take me on his side with sound arguments and very specific data points. Specifically, both of their answers, for one question asked from the audience was probably a turning point in the debate. When some one asked – What would make you change your mind? Bill told the audience to bring in sound evidences and they would change his mind. Ken Ham disappointingly suggested that nothing could change his mind. Clearly, a person who was willing to accept good evidences to change his beliefs was the winner for me; not a stiff/adamant person.
All said, Ken ham was not able to persuade me to accept his argument that the world was around six thousand years old.

In fact, at the end of the debate when both of the speakers were done, I observed that Ken Ham silently moved into the darker background and surprisingly (surprising because it was Kentucky), several people from the audience started approaching Bill Nye for a handshake or an autograph. Although, it wasn’t clear why they had approached him, whatever it was, it was definitely some kind of an appreciation for Bill. Evidently, people were impressed with his arguments.

Also, not being well aware of the Christian belief, during an online discussion after the debate, I was surprised to find that despite having embraced Christianity, there is a chunk of Christian population that believes the world is indeed several billions of years old (It is the Creationists who believe in six-thousand-year-old-earth theory). This chunk of Christian population was on the side of Bill Nye. So, this was not a God vs. Science debate. It was exactly like it was advertised – Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham.

Now, that things were starting to get a bit clearer, I decided to explore what sort of beliefs, the three most followed religions held on this topic. This is what I found:

Christians (31.59% of the world population): The ones who interpret the biblical writing in a literal manner believe that the Earth is six thousand years old and discard the theory of evolution (molecule to man). However, there is a huge chunk of Christians, with a background in science, who firmly believe that the earth is indeed several Billions of years old and also to an extent, believe in evolution.

Muslims (23.2% of the world population): According to this about page, Islam does not take a fixed stance on the age of the Earth. They prefer to leave the knowledge to their deity. Their holy book, Quran describes that the creation of Universe took “six days”. Again, according to them, at that time, as the definition of day could have been different than what it is now, especially when the Sun did not exist then, they do not like to say that the universe got created in 6 x 24 hours. In other words, they have a view very similar to the Biblical writings, yet are pretty flexible about accepting new theories on the age of our universe.

In the 19th century the prominent scholar of Islamic revival, Jamal-al-Din al-Afghānī agreed with Darwin that life will compete with other life in order to succeed. He also believed that there was competition in the realm of ideas similar to that of nature. – Wikipedia

Hindus (15% of the world population): Among all the three, Hinduism, the third most followed religion, has a lot of new things to say about the age of the universe. Since 95% of followers of this religion live in a single country, and the religion itself isn’t missionary in nature, its views are not popularly known all over the world. Personally, the Hindu religion and the vast amount of documented science it has in its ancient holy books fascinates me more than any other extant religion (not more than science, if you consider it a religion).

The religion believes in a circular time rather than a simple linear time-line of the universe and suggests the universe is several trillions of years old. In fact the “kalp-chakra” – the life span of the universe – it mentions is the largest measure of time known to man. And the end, it states that the universe collapses and gets created again.

The fundamental books of Hinduism, the Vedas, are huge, believed to be around 3,800 years old and comprehensively document numerous mathematical and scientific calculations. These books contain writings that cover topics from almost every science or maths subject known to man. In fact, they depend so much on mathematics that the holiest Hindu number is believed to be 108 which is probably the most beautiful number in mathematics.