Discover the US state with the most deceivingly flat appearance

The US and Canada have been mapped topographically, and while it's easy to note the mountainous stretches along the coasts, it’s been suggested that the Midwestern United States is an empty expanse. Some have dubbed the area, "flatter than a pancake." However, this may be a stereotype, and it all depends on how one perceives it.

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Geographers Jerome Dobson and Joshua Campbell have ranked the contiguous US states by their perceived roundness in a new report. They used a computer analysis to determine how a 6-foot-tall person who could see just over 3 miles would see the world. The goal was not to figure out which state was the flattest but which one appeared the flattest.

The researchers established an angle of 0.32º as the appropriate cut-point for the classification. They used the analysis to determine whether the view was either “flat” or “not flat.” They calculated how the terrain would look in 16 different directions from one spot. The view could change from “not flat” through to “flat,” “flatter,” and “flattest.” The long, gentle slope could even be a great change in elevation, but still, look pretty flat from the ground.

Florida was both the flattest and flattest-looking state, followed by Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, Delaware, Kansas and Texas. West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky were the least-flat-seeming states.

The researchers ask why Kansas and the Midwest are considered so flat if the actual measurement does not support it. They suggest that stereotypes have consequences, and negative attitudes create hurdles for business, academic and other recruiting prospects for even the most qualified candidates.

Florida proves to be a fascinating case because of its demonstrably flat land and the fact that so few people consider it as such. The researchers are unsure about what influences people's perception of flatness. They raise some questions like whether Florida's dense forests mask its flatness, or whether standing water has an impact on human perception of flatness.

There is potential to create negative stereotypes through misperception, and that's something the researchers hope to address. The researchers emphasize the importance of making it clear that human perceptions of flatness differ from objective measures of flatness and that this perception has real consequences in shaping regional identities and attitudes.

In conclusion, while some US states are flatter than others, what one considers a flat state ultimately comes down to perception. The study highlights the impact of misperception and the potential to improve regional identities. In the end, Florida can lay claim to the title of the flattest state, but it also suggests that stereotypes based on flawed perception do not help a region’s reputation.

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