When I was growing up, there were perhaps only three facts of geography I knew for sure:
  1. the equator was exactly 25,000 miles long,
  2. heaven was located just above the Van Allen radiation belt, and
  3. Mount Everest was the highest mountain in the world.
These were scientific facts of the first order, known to all parochial school children, and inculcated through repetition and regular use of the chart and pointer by Sister Mary Geography.

It is a sign of the faithless age in which we live that no one will really commit himself on precisely how long the equator is, and that contemporary theologians tend to blush at the notion of an astrophysical heaven. And now, science has dashed the last of my childhood geographical truths: Mount Everest may have fallen from its lofty heights.

Using laser beams, satellite linkups and other high-tech items, a team of American scientists has...

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