Mathematics: To Everywhere in 42 Minutes

Although he is now 36, and a mathematician for Sylvania, Paul Cooper has never lost his boyhood enthusiasm for the fanciful science-fiction stories of Jules Verne. While musing about Journey to the Center of the Earth several months ago, Cooper himself took off on a mathematical flight of fancy that more than rivals Verne's most imaginative work. By crisscrossing the earth with subterranean tunnels, the freewheeling mathematician proposes in the current issue of the American Journal of Physics, man could achieve intercontinental travel at ballistic missile speed.

Verne's underground hike would, have...