Thursday, November 03, 2005

What is an island?

Do you remember those general knowledge quizzes in primary school when the teacher asks “which is the world’s largest island?”

Your friend, whom you are obviously rooting for, answers “Greenland.” You feel a tinge of relief that he has hit it on the right spot.

The other contestant, a pimply faced girl with her annoyingly whiny voice and an aura of stuck-upness, puts in her answer as “Australia.” You breath a sign of relief; you friend will be getting one point. More importantly, the girl would not be getting a point.

Then the teacher proceeds to award the girl one point for giving the correct answer.
“What the hell! Australia is a continent, not a bloody island!” you think to yourself. Shaking with rage caused by this severe injustice, you vow to revolutionise the definition of island.

Over the course of what remains of your primary school years, you come up with a foolproof definition of island, one that is not mutually exclusive with the definition of “continent”. Having done that, you try to convince the world to adopt your superior definition of island. Of course, you fail. You find that, to your great dismay, people are not willing to change, and in a society with the self-reinforcing habits of gossip and media, a new definition of island will not survive unless pushed by a very large and dedicated group.

Society’s reluctance and apparent stupidity drives you into a prolonged period of brooding moodiness. There goes your chance of changing humanity before the age of twelve. Yes, you could try harder and you might just do it next year, but twelve is such a significant year.

If you had done it before twelve, people would be saying, “Look! There’s the boy who revolutionised the definition of island, and he still pays half price to eat at buffet dinners.”

Thirteen. What is so special about thirteen? The tabloids announce “he revolutionised the definition of island before he even got his driving license.” They never say “just a little over 12.” And thirteen year old kids pay full price at dinners.

And so you give up trying to make a change, and meld into secondary school.


***


What is an island?

The mother of all English dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary, tells us that an island is “a piece of land completely surrounded by water.”
Then shouldn’t the largest island be the Africa-Asia-Europe landmass?


***


On a separate but partially related note, it is possible to design a world with only one lake and one island.

Returning to quote from the mother of all English dictionaries:
Island- a piece of land completely surrounded by water
Lake- a large body of water entirely surrounded by land


The concept of having only one lake and one island is daft only if you use plane geometry. If instead you consider a finite but unbounded surface, it is perfectly doable. The earth’s surface is an example of a finite unbounded surface. Its area is finite, but you can never fall off the surface no matter how far you travel in any direction.

A symmetrical lake/island scenario would be to have the northern hemisphere of a planet covered with dry land, and the southern hemisphere with water. This being the case, the equator would be the boundary between the land and water. The shoreline.



Like all cool planets, this planet has a ring around it. Scientists suspect that the vivid yellow is due to the fact that the ring consists of many lemons orbiting the planet.


The water completely surrounds the land. We have an island. Yet the island completely surrounds the water. We also have a lake.

To further illustrate the validity of this lake/island scenario, you could make the landmass bigger by shifting the shoreline towards the south. It should become bleeding obvious that the body of water is actually a lake.

Similarly, you could make the body of water larger by shifting the shoreline north, and making the landmass smaller until it becomes painfully obvious that it is an island.






11 Comments:

Blogger plink said...

Yup, just like the problem with kidney beans.

:)

12:28 am, November 04, 2005  
Blogger Lao Chen said...

Erm...what about them?

Kidney beans are from the species phaseolus vulgaris.

1:15 am, November 04, 2005  
Anonymous Oliver Brown said...

Not completely related to your original, but you can take this in all sorts of pedantic directions :)

How about a strip of land around the equator, one island and two lakes.

Now imagine a strip of water connects the lakes. You're now back to one island and one lake.

Unless the water is actually a river that flows parallel to the equator and then splits in to two, each one going into one of the lakes.

One island and one lake or one island and two lakes with a river?

3:02 am, November 04, 2005  
Blogger sonia said...

Argh.. So lazy to think so much (refering to Oliver Brown's comment). Enough of 'brain challenging' things in a day!

Please don't say I'm stupid. Haha.. =P

Anyways, like this style of writing. And of course the story. Hehe.. Kids' thinking, huh?

I tell u something. Once, I totally lost trust in a probational English teacher (man) in primary school. He taught us the word "business" and said it was pronounced as "BUSY-ness"..... And he kept insisting that it's
"BUSY-ness"!

Unforgettable. =P

Haha.. Yay! Inspiration to blog bout the story soon, in my blog of course. =D

3:55 am, November 04, 2005  
Blogger Lao Chen said...

oliver brown:
Nice 2 lakes scenario. You get a lake in an island in a lake. And the nesting order of the lakes is a bit fuzzy. Is it the northern lake in the island in the southern lake? Is it the southern lake in the island in the norhtern lake?

sonia:
Don't know if its kids'thinking. I made it up while i wrote. And i pay full full price at buffet dinners.

Yea, sad to say our education system has got a bit more incompetent teachers that absolutely necessary.

11:37 am, November 04, 2005  
Blogger plink said...

Arrk?!?!
Kidney beans: shaped like kidneys, right?
Kidneys, named because of the shape: like kidney beans.
Just another example of the island/lake conundrum.
BTW: ph(r)aseolus vulgaris. Sounds just like me. Am getting major perasanism attack right now. Off to spout vulgar ph(r)ases. Bye:)

5:17 pm, November 04, 2005  
Blogger sonia said...

Haha.. Well, it's similar to what I might have thought when I was a kid. Hehehe...

Eg: I was feeling proud inside that I could climb a tree higher than the guys (kids). LoL! =P

4:17 am, November 05, 2005  
Anonymous 100kaligusrotan said...

Yo YeeWei! Watsup man, i can still remember this argument from ages ago! lol guess who am I?

ps- Im a blast from the past

3:55 am, November 17, 2005  
Blogger Lao Chen said...

Oh its you, Mr Jason Tan, victim of the stupid island/continent inconsistency.

BTW, your name rocks. I have tried that 100 rotan in std 3. Not 4,5,6 though.

11:11 am, November 17, 2005  
Anonymous 100kaligusrotan said...

Howdidcha guess it was me???
Heck your memory seems to be might fine.

I am quite sure the rotan happened in std 5 or 6.......lol stupid australia vs greenland!

5:35 am, November 18, 2005  
Blogger Lao Chen said...

well, you were in that little scanario. I doubt many people would remember this particular game if they were not involved. And i think Kim Sue Ling (the girl who said Australia, for the benefit of anyone else reading) doesn't recall the 100 rotans on the palm.

I think it's standard 6, the teacher was Tan Bee Lian, the notorious one with the bulging rear engine bay :p.

Let's move over to the comment area on the right of the main page. This post might disappear from sight pretty soon.

3:08 pm, November 18, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home