xkcd #2003:

Ties are broken by whoever was closest to the surface of Europa when they were born.

gives a humorous line of succession to the United States presidency. The comic's title text, found by hovering over the comic, states that a tie is broken by whoever was closest to the surface of Europa when they were born.

The only potential tie on the list occurs in item #19. It states the "champion" of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest, but does not specify the men's or women's champion. At the time of the comic's publication, the men's champion was Joey Chestnut (born 1983-11-25) and the women's champion was Miki Sudo (Wikipedia gives only 1985 as her year of birth, but famousbirthdays.com claims July 22).

Both were ineligible to hold the presidency at the time of publication due to not meeting the minimum age requirement of 35. But supposing they both were, who would be first in line by the tiebreaker of distance from the surface of Europa at birth?

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    $\begingroup$ I've got to admit that the 24 round jousting tournament sounds like the greatest idea ever. Let's do this instead of those silly elections. :-) $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jan 12 at 9:17

tl;dr Miki Sudo

Using JPL's SPICE toolkit, I computed the positions of Earth and Europa for the times in question.

Relative Positions of Earth and Europa on 1983-Nov-25

Relative Positions of Earth and Europa on 1985-Jul-22

On 1983-Nov-25, Earth and Europa are 935.2 million km apart, while 1985-Jul-22, they are 612.5 million km apart. Miki Sudo wins by 323 million km, given the assumed date for her birthday. If we don't trust famousbirthdays.com for Sudo's birthday, but assume it was still sometime in 1985, she still wins. Earth-Europa Distance in 1985

In fact, it turns out Joey Chesnut was born at a time when Earth was close to its farthest point from Europa, so he's fairly unlikely to ever win in this tiebreaker: Earth-Europa Distance, 1980-220

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    $\begingroup$ Like this approach to the problem. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jan 12 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ What an outstanding first answer! $\endgroup$ – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 12 at 21:21

Any online planetarium or equivalent mobile app will tell you that on 1983-11-25 Jupiter was near to its conjunction with the Sun:

enter image description here

while on 1985-07-22 it was close to opposition:

enter image description here

So on Miki Sudo's birthday, Europa was about 300 million kilometers closer to the Earth than on Joey Chestnut's birthday.

images taken from the Star Walk iOS app


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