pageok
pageok
pageok

Science Proves It. Thanks to commenter Kim Scarborough for the pointer.

The Original TS (mail):
Very amusing! Oddly enough, I was having a related conversation with someone a couple of weeks ago -- I'm going to send this on!

BTW, I found this typo hilarious!

This obvious question "how flat is a pancake" spurned our analytical interest . . .
12.2.2005 2:47pm
dick thompson (mail):
What struck me in driving across Kansas many years ago when I was young was not only how flat it was but that all the trees grew at the same slanting angle due to the constant wind blowing across the prairies and also how all the turns in the roads were 90 degrees.
12.2.2005 2:56pm
Steve - History Buff:
As a Kansan, I can tell you that the elevation of the state increases as you travel west (at the Missouri border, it's about 900 feet, but at the Colorado border, around 3,000 feet). Incidentally, driving across Kansas (about 8 hours) is not too interesting - mainly wheat fields as far as the eye can see (but good for reading or sleeping as a passenger). In addition to supplying wheat for much of the nation and world, Kansas also harvests quite a few good minds.
12.2.2005 3:02pm
FXKLM:
They should have used more than one pancake. There's bound to be some variation in the flatness of pancakes and we have no way of knowing whether this particular pancake is truly representative.
12.2.2005 3:02pm
Ian (www):
Is science still allowed to prove things in Kansas? I think they measure flatness there by "intelligent topography."
12.2.2005 3:21pm
Ohm:
To FXKLM: The contention is that Kansas is flatter than A pancake, not flatter than the average, typical, or platonic ideal of a pancake. So I think the methodology is spot-on: Here's a pancake, and it's flatter than Kansas. Sure, there's probably some hypothetical pancake flatter than Kansas...that doesn't disprove the saying, does it?
12.2.2005 3:36pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Maybe they also should have used more than one Kansas.
12.2.2005 4:41pm
FXKLM:
Ohm: I'm sure I could find an ugly, mangled pancake less flat than Colorado (maybe one that got stock to the pan and was scraped out into a big charred dough pile), but I don't think anyone would say that Colorado is flat as a pancake.
12.2.2005 5:41pm
frankcross (mail):
Actually, if you look at the data, I think you'll find that every state (or virtually every state) is also flatter than a pancake. The earth's crust, even with mountains, is pretty flat, and pancakes are less flat than one assumes.
12.2.2005 7:24pm
XWL:
I remember hearing somewhere that the earth shrunk to the size of a billiard ball would appear as smooth (or smoother, I forget), our planet is enormous compared to the miniscule variations of height on the surface.
12.2.2005 8:14pm
Le Messurier (mail):
While driving across the American Midwest, it is common to hear travelers remark, "This state is as flat as a pancake."

Ahhh! The American Midwest. What is it? Where is it? When I grew up it was commonly defined as the states that are in what where the original Northwest Territories. For those of you who failed US history in High School, that would be seven states: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Since the Midwest is conidered the "heartland" of the US it seems that every state West of the Missouri River wants a piece of it. I first noticed this trend when Johnny Carson was still on the tonight show and said his home state of Nebraska was in the Midwest. And Kansas? No, I'm sorry, they may be fine states, but they are not in the Midwest. They are Plains states!. And that's the way it is.

Le Messurier
12.2.2005 8:17pm
Splunge (mail):
I remember hearing somewhere that the earth shrunk to the size of a billiard ball would appear as smooth (or smoother, I forget), our planet is enormous compared to the miniscule variations of height on the surface.

Goodness, yes. The largest definable vertical feature on the Earth's surface (the difference between the top of Mt. Everest, +30000' and the bottom of the Marianas Trench, -35000') is only about 0.16% of the Earth's diameter. A comparable feature on a billiard ball of 2.25 inch diameter would be 3 one-thousandths of an inch high. More delicate than the finest scratch, I expect.

The authors knew this, of course. That's why they did the "experiment."
12.2.2005 10:12pm
Jared K.:
As a New Englander, I can assure you that the Midwest in fact begins immediately after Ohio and lasts at least until Colorado. From time to time, I've been tempted to even throw in parts of Western Pennsylvania.
12.3.2005 1:26am
Eugene Volokh (www):
It actualyy goes all the way to Bakersfield.
12.3.2005 11:43am
markm (mail):
"As a Kansan, I can tell you that the elevation of the state increases as you travel west (at the Missouri border, it's about 900 feet, but at the Colorado border, around 3,000 feet)."

I've cooked pancakes like that. Actually, they were much worse than that. That's a change of 2,100 feet elevation (say about 0.4 mile) in a length of at least 400 miles (unless that 8 hour drive is extremely slow or winding), or 1 part in a thousand. A variation of 1/1000 across the width of a pancake would be imperceptible with the naked eye. It could not even be measured with a calipers unless you froze the pancake solid so it wouldn't give when touched by the measuring instrument.

Even a perfect pancake has pores where gas vented from the interior. The proportional depth of those pores is much, much more than the proportional height of Colorado's mountains, so, yes, Colorado is flatter than a perfect pancake.
12.3.2005 6:51pm
Barb (mail):
By these criteria, Nepal would be flatter than a pancake too.
12.4.2005 11:52am
Mikeyes (mail):
How flat is Kansas?

I spent much of my life there and my best friend used to tell me about the time he was helping out with the harvest (there is only one "harvest", wheat)in western Kansas and he realized that he could see under the truck parked a mile away. What really impressed him, however, was that he could also see under the truck parked two miles away.
12.5.2005 3:18pm