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Latin America Monica Dispatch

Instant Weight Loss at the Equator

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Doesn't look as balmy as we'd imagined!
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The equator marks the halfway point between the North and South Poles
Today I visited the latitude 0 degrees - 0 minutes - 0 seconds. What is that? If you guessed the EQUATOR, you're right! This makes sense, too, as we're currently in the country of Ecuador, which means equator. There's a monument marking the equator in Quito in a place called La Mitad del Mundo, which is about an hour by bus from downtown Quito.

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If you are standing where the O is, you're closer to the center of the earth than if you are where the X is and the earth bulges out because it is spinning!  Mr. O will weigh less than Ms. X!
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When you stand at the equator, you are farther from the center of the earth, which is the center of gravity. So even though you are the same size, you weigh less! Another trickier factor is that when you are at the equator, you spin faster as the earth turns and you tend to get pulled more away from the center. (It's like when you stand in the center of a merry-go-round and you hardly notice it's spinning, but at the edge you can really feel it!) So your tendency to go flying out because of the spinning counteracts the gravity a little bit.

Don't get me wrong, you can't really notice any of this when you're here. The effect isn't THAT huge. But it does affect you a little! How about that?

Some people think that countries near the equator are always hot and humid, but this country is an exception. Today it was cold and raining, and I was shivering as I walked around the park. I also had to jump through rain puddles everywhere. The wide avenue heading into the park is marked by many busts of great thinkers, and contains a planetarium and several artesania (artists) markets. There's even a post office where you can send a letter right from the equator! There were plenty of people visiting the monument, including groups of Colombian students and German tourists who were wandering around taking pictures and marveling at a miniature replica of the city of Quito.

Nearby was a scale on which you can weigh yourself. Apparently, you weigh a few pounds less at the equator. The earth is wider at the middle, so the pull on you is a little less than it would be, say, at the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Your body mass remains the same, but you weigh less. How's that for instant weight loss?

A yellow line is painted on the ground marking the equator, with the Northern Hemisphere on one side and the Southern Hemisphere on the other. I was able to stand with one foot on either side! (If you remember, my camera was stolen in Colombia but Juan Pablo took a Polaroid of me.)

The monument marking the equator is a large grayish-brick structure rising high in the center of the park with a huge E on it. Two obelisks stand stately on either side. The one on the left reads "Longitude Greenwich 78 degrees - 27 minutes - 8 seconds," and underneath, "Altitude 2.483m". The other, on the right, reads "Latitude 0 degrees - 0 minutes - 0 seconds" and beneath that, "Declinacion Magnetica 6' 38 - E."

Because it was raining, I didn't get a chance to stay longer. However, I hope you'll take some time to check out your location on the globe and figure out the latitude and longitude of where you are right now.

Monica

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