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Recently, I came across an addendum to a problem that appears in many calculus texts, an addendum I had never explored. It intrigued me, and I hope it will capture your attention too.

The problem is that of girding the equator of the earth with a belt, then extending by one unit (here, taken as the foot) the radius of the circle so formed. The question is by how much does the circumference of the belt increase. This problem usually appears in the section of the calculus text dealing with linear approximations by the differential. It turns out that the circumference of the enlarged band is 2*Pi ft greater than the original band.

(An alternate version of this has the circumference of the band increased by one foot, with the radius then being increased by 0.16 ft.)

The addendum to the problem then asked how high would the enlarged band be over the surface of the earth if it were lifted at one point and drawn as tight as possible around the equator. At first, I didn't know what to think. Would the height be some surprisingly large number? And how would one go about calculating this height.

It turns out that the enlarged and lifted band would be some 616.67 feet above the surface of the earth! This is significantly larger than the increase in the diameter of the original band. So, the result is a surprise, at least to me.

This is the kind of amusement that retirement affords. I heartily recommend both the amusement and the retirement. The supporting calculations can be found in the attached worksheet: Girding.mw

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