Mental Floss

You Really Can See Russia From Your House (Plus 9 Other Surprising Distances)

Kurt Woock
Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron / Chloe Effron

Maps are generally informative, often useful, and occasionally really pretty, but they rarely tell the whole story. Below, a few unexpected measurements to help you wrap your head around what it's really like to get from Point A to Point B.

1. The Florida Turnpike has a stretch of nearly 50 miles without an exit. If you ran out of the gas in the middle, you’d essentially need to run a marathon to find the next gas station.

2. Americans drove 3 trillion miles last year—about half a light-year. The nearest non-sun star in the universe, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away. If somehow those car miles translated to spaceflight miles, we’d arrive at that star in less than nine years.

3. Earth’s diameter is about 8000 miles. Antipodes are pairs of points that form the endpoints of an 8000-mile line through a globe. If you were to dig a hole from anywhere in the continental U.S., you would not end up in China, however. You would be wet. There are only three flecks of land on the other side of the globe. If you were to dig in north-central Montana, near the Canadian border, you’d end up in Kerguelen Island, which is in the southern Indian Ocean. Two other islands—Amsterdam Island and St. Paul Island—are opposite Colorado.

4. The deepest hole ever dug descends about 7.5 miles. The average distance from the center of the earth’s core to the surface is about 4000 miles. In other words, having only been able to go about 0.1875 percent of the way to the center of the earth, we’ve barely pricked the surface. It’s much easier to go up than down: The space probe Voyager 1 is beyond Pluto, in interstellar space, about 12,303,100,000 miles from Earth.

5. The Great Salt Lake is twice the length of Rhode Island.

6. The SEA-ME-WE 3 is the longest undersea communications cable, stretching 24,000 miles. It begins in Norden, Germany, wraps around the western coast of Europe, and goes through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Red Sea. It has dual termini—one in Japan and one in Australia. In all, it comes ashore in 39 locations.

7. There is more coastline on the Great Lakes (4530 miles) than there is on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the contiguous U.S., combined (3458 miles).

8. Russia’s Big Diomede Island and Alaska’s Little Diomede Island are just 2.5 miles apart from one another. That’s shorter than the distance between Manhattan’s Union Square and its Upper West Side neighborhood.

9. If you were to line up all the Interstate highways in the United States, the road would ramble on for about 47,000 miles—enough to circle the contiguous United States almost five times.

10. Liechtenstein is roughly twice the size of Manhattan.

Graphics by Chloe Effron