Longest straight line over sea
This is the longest possible straight line sea journey possible on EarthRohan Chabukswar and Kushal Mukherjee via arXiv:1804.07389v1
  • It is possible to make an ocean journey in a perfectly straight line from Pakistan to Russia
  • The journey will be a little over 32,000 km
  • A Redditor mapped out this route five years back, but computer scientists have confirmed it now with actual data scanning the entire planet
  • The longest possible straight line road route is 11,241 km long and covers 15 countries  

The longest possible straight line boat journey in the world will surprisingly connect southern Pakistan with eastern Russia - in a perfectly straight line. The journey will involve a ship or boat traveling perfectly straight and not hitting any land for a whopping 32,090.3 km.

The idea was first proposed by a Reddit user Patrick Anderson about five years back, notes a report by ScienceMag (SM), and now, scientists have actually proved him right. The line was put together by Anderson after he reportedly read a Wikipedia entry about extreme points on Earth, he says. He then proceeded to chart out coordinated he found on that page and was surprised to find that the line he mapped out was indeed perfectly straight.

A video made by Anderson caught the attention of a physicist at United Technologies Research Center Ireland- Rohan Chabukswar who thought the concept was cool, but then realized that there was no real proof of it apart from a few coordinates and a YouTube video. So Chabukswar and his colleague from IBM in India began collecting actual data to find out if this was true.

The duo reportedly started with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) ETOPO1 Global Relief model of Earth's surface that shows the entire planet at a spatial resolution of about 1.8 km. What this means is that even the smallest geological feature on its map will scale up to about 1.8 km in size. The data also includes altitude, notes the SM report, so the researchers would know at any point along the journey if they were on land or at sea.

With all this data in hand, the only thing left was to work out the geometry of this equation. This is where the concept of the "great circle" comes to play, notes the report. A great circle is the longest possible straight line that can be drawn over the surface of a sphere and it can only lie on the same plane as the center of said sphere. If that is hard to visualize, the equator is one of Earth's great circles.

So the researchers started off simply drawing out every possible great circle on the planet. At a 1.8 km resolution, the report notes that they came up with about 233,280,000 possible great circles, and each containing about 21,600 points on either land or sea. That makes a total, of 5,038,848,000,000 points, all of which have to be analyzed and verified.

To do this, the team chose an optimization algorithm called "branch and bound," that tests only a few subsets of all the great circles. The program then continues to optimize the results by running the circles over and over till a possible solution is found. Once the results came back, the researchers had proven Anderson's route right.

The route, starts in Pakistan and goes through the Pacific
The path visualised in a globeRohan Chabukswar and Kushal Mukherjee via arXiv:1804.07389v1

The route would start at Sonmiani, Pakistan, and go downward through the gap between Madagascar and Africa, then proceed on toward the small gap between South America and Antarctica, and on toward the north-northwest right across the massive Pacific, just missing the Alaskan archipelago on to the beaches of the Karaginsky in North-Eastern Russia, 32,090.3 km in all.

Over land, the longest possible straight line journey without crossing over a sea was found to be an 11,241 km route that crosses 15 countries, starting at the town of Sagres in western Portugal and going straight to Quanzhou in eastern China. There is, however, no straight road that will make this journey possible. 

There are a few long, straight roads around the world that people can actually drive on, but they pale in comparison to the distances discussed in this story. The longest single, straight piece of tarmac is Highway 10 in Saudi Arabia. It is 272 km long and cuts through a featureless, rather dull section of desert, reports the Telegraph. Drivers often find it difficult to stay awake on drives down this road.