Land surface errata
Story by Vasily Dubovoy.
July 13
Land Surface: I’m sorry I screwed up the print run.
While testing the comparison page, I couldn’t understand why Alaska turns out to be larger than Mongolia. On the projected maps Alaska has fewer pixels than Mongolia. I wasn’t able to notice this earlier as the two countries have been on the opposite sides of the poster since the beginning and in the table Alaska has always remained larger than Mongolia.
The data set has every single one of the 17 179 869 184 pixels and if any line has an extra pixel or misses one, this becomes instantly evident. I’ve been thinking hard about this, projected the maps several times over, but the result didn’t change. At the end I thought that this has something to do with antialiasing and was about to let go when I finally found a shifted cell belonging to Alaska in the data set. The same line had 7 cells of Canada data and the spreadsheet was set up in such a way that Excel counted the area of all these pixels in the line towards the area of Alaska.
Before we started the final typesetting, Marina and I checked the spreadsheet several times exactly to avoid something like this and I was absolutely positive that all data was entered correctly.
Then, knowing where and what to look for, I found four more cells shifted in the same way. At this point I couldn’t understand anymore what data goes where, how many of other similar cells there can be and how many errors they might cause.
Searching bugs like this in a spreadsheet of 36 000 cells is a horrible, inhumane task. Plus, the design of the spreadsheet lends itself poorly to catching errors like this by using logical formulas. It’s just like an old punch card. This was caused by my inexperience of working with data when the project started.
It was clear that we needed to recalculate everything from scratch, with the condition that we should never alter the data manually, that the data sets should never overlap and that we should exclude the human factor entirely from data gathering. I scanned all lines for pixels from scratch and put everything in a single list with no manual adjustments. Now Excel recognizes all lines in the pixel list, determines their area and assembles the data into country areas using nothing but logical formulas. Anyone can verify this, it should be verifiable enough for a scientific publication.
The only thing still done manually is calculating line areas in the INPUT sheet with AutoCAD. I still don’t know how to do this using Excel formulas only, but if I ever get Excel to do it, it would be able to handle data of any standard, and that would be a bomb!
Looking over the results, we can see that the old spreadsheet has 10 shifted cells that resulted in 29 errors. Plus some smaller errors three of which I covered in my previous letter.
I fixed everything, but this won’t save the posters that we already printed
Here are all the errors.

Printed  Should be 

Russia  16 523 291  16 523 293 
Antarctica  10 255 933  12 447 692 
China  9 279 961  9 279 960 
Canada  8 851 148  8 951 513 
Brazil  8 357 194  8 402 706 
Greenland  2 108 634  2 148 362 
Saudi Arabia  1 940 611  1 933 260 
Alaska (US state)  1 585 264  1 445 171 
Bolivia  1 122 444  1 076 932 
Madagascar  591 278  590 710 
France  539 416  545 040 
Vietnam  316 653  324 000 
Poland  312 722  307 097 
Ecuador  No total area  
Guinea  245 957  245 958 
East Malaysia (Malaysia)  197 072  197 022 
Nepal  123 246  147 126 
Jordan  112 966  89 086 
Portugal  No total area  
Latvia  Map stretched  
Denmark  No total area  
New Caledonia (France)  18 466  18 532 
Vanuatu  11 514  12 083 
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (UK)  Map stretched  
Mauritius  2 057  1 991 
Paracel Islands (Vietnam, China, Taiwan)  Not on the poster  
Clipperton Atoll (France)  2  3 
Europe  22 298 366  22 298 369 
Africa  29 679 701  29 679 067 
Asia  30 866 977  30 866 922 
Oceania  433 731  8 434 366 
North America  22 904 475  22 904 476 
Antarctica  10 267 732  12 459 496 
Water  369 222 374  367 030 660 
Land  141 985 520  144 177 233 
July 14
That’s it! I calculated everything using only Excel formulas, no AutoCAD. My spreadsheet is now perfect in every way possible
Now I just need to finish the Process part on geometry, refresh the data on the comparison page and we can launch the announcement.
July 31
Land surface: OK, Google! Let’s add the minor radius.
Another chapter of the Process that came out a bit late.
The solution was not mathematical, but if we were to make physical measures, it would be precise. Which means that this chapter of the Process describes a fact, but gives no proofs. Unlike the previous chapter, it means it has no practical use for surveyors and programmers.
August 3
I was able to find a radical solution to the surface area problem. Now it’s a proper investigation (with all the formulas, methods and a variety of examples from different points of view).