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No no, there's no limit

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, one of the many things that was changed forever was the notion of airspace. Before then, it had been safe to assume that the space above a country simply belonged to that country; suddenly, with wealthy nations able to sling their technology overhead at will, it turned out there was a natural boundary after all, somewhere before the oxygen ran out. The exact boundary remains undefined in international law, which is probably just as well. One country in particular would vigorously resist such a law, because apparently it has still not even accepted the principle that there is any upper limit to its airspace. That country is Norway.

No, it isn’t. It is, of course, France. The country apparently believes it extends infinitely upwards. Best of all for fans of Gallic sophistication and blowing up boats belonging to environmental protestors, the spin of the Earth’s axis and the shape of its orbit mean that there is by now [very probably] no part of the universe that has not, technically, been French.

Fig. 1: Infinite France


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 2nd, 2007 03:36 pm (UTC)
With the Americans planning for Space Dominance in their militarisation of space (I dare you to read USAF Space Command's mission statement and not shudder), I think this is a very smart call on the part of the French.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
I don't feel any more reassured by the fact that the French have "got there first". Maybe if it were the Portuguese or something.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 2nd, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
> you've got to do an awful lot of rotations before you've covered everything

The claim was based on the fact that the Earth has by now done an awful lot of rotations, but you're right, I have no actual proof. So for now I've modified the sentence, and must now invite any passing mathematicians, astronomers or professional guessers to apply themselves to this question.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
So nothing can be "sur la France"? I think France's airspace must have missed some bits - wouldn't it all be concentrated in a sort of plane across the universe? Even with the Earth's seasonal wobble, you wouldn't cover the bits of the universe that mainly face our southern hemisphere. Otherwise, the whole solar system would need to be flipping end-over-end in relation to the rest of the universe, which I don't think is the case. What they need to do is declare a doll's house a French embassy, stick it in one of those 360o rotating cage fairground Covent Garden kids' ride things and keep it spinning round using electricity, or l'electricitie. If they got a few dozen of these in a field and spun them all in a staggered pattern, they could ensure that most of the universe is French pretty much all of the time.

This might all be nonsense, but in my defense I do have my own telescope.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Tsk, you're forgetting that the "Frenchness cone" can only propagate at the speed of light. It could only have reached as far as 2087 light years in the time since the birth of Asterix.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
I was hoping I could use this light cone calculator to track how much of the universe France owns, but it only works after 1954.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
Can anything move faster that the speed of light? And if not then the universe can only be as big as it's old. I bet someone thought of this before, didn't they?
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 2nd, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah that makes sense. Damn.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 07:17 pm (UTC)
I don't think it works like that. You will never see an object travelling faster than the speed of light from your reference frame, but apparently this doesn't apply to the expansion of space itself. I'm not sure why.

Also, expansion means that the matter in the universe gets further apart, but the universe itself is unbounded. So there's no way to determine how "big" it is. We're not inside a big sphere with an edge.

Does your head in thinking about it.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
Don't French overseas territories have the same status as mainland France? So places like Reunion and French Polynesia would sweep their tiny beams of Frenchness across the Southern skies.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 2nd, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC)
Adherents to the 'washing machine' model of the universe would maintain that this does happen, but I think they're wrong, and I have a telescope. Which I have used twice now!
Jan. 2nd, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
Pedantically I should mention that, in that image, the airspace doesn't go straight up: it tightens, and its "straightupness" is an illusion. Going straight up from a spherical surface in fact requires that very "spreading out" you mention.

If you took off from the French border and travelled vertically for 200km, taking the average width of France to be something like w=821.49km (area = 674,843km2), the beam would be around 13km away: radius of earth r = 6378.1km; w x (1+200km/r) = approx w + 25.8km.

This senseless nitpick brought to you by Google and my dim and distant knowledge of the sine rule.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 2nd, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
Don't mind me. I get autistic and a bit monomanic when I have low blood-sugar. Now I've had my dinner all I can think of is how cute that dog icon looks with that nose.

... I can't believe I really googled for the square root of the area of France.
Jan. 4th, 2007 11:14 am (UTC)
> Going straight up from a spherical surface in fact requires that very "spreading out" you mention

You are, of course, entirely right. I have modified the illustration in the journal entry and hereby reproduce the original, erroneous illustration for the sake of clarity.

Jan. 4th, 2007 12:31 pm (UTC)
There's nothing clear about France. Sneaky buggers, with their onions and shrugs.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
Since the US is now developing yer actual Space Marines - with the intention of deploying them from space to avoid all that pesky negotiation for overflight rights - I expect they will soon start pushing hard for a convention that puts a lid on airspace.

They can't get back into space once they've landed, so it's sort of Aliens meets Black Hawk Down. Would look good on CNN though.

(Deleted comment)
Jan. 2nd, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
It punches all the way through to French New Zealand.
Jan. 2nd, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
If so, who owns that point of singularity at the very centre of the planet? Logic suggests that we all share it, but this is a subject, like so many others, where logic and les Francaises collide.
Jan. 5th, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
Briefly, fair's fair, mate. Moreover, credit where it's due. I demand some recognition for "discovering" infinite France.
Jan. 6th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
Duly recognised, mate.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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