Global Handbook


The creation of the EarthBall
What season is it?
Care and feeding
Life on a small planet
Educational activities
Games to play
Other applications
Can the world work for everyone
Vital statistics of Earth
Where to go from here


Welcome to the Global Handbook! This operating manual is an informational companion to the EarthBall. It contains ideas and uses for the ball at home and at school. Among these are educational applications derived from actual classroom experiences, games to play, and vital statistics about our planet Earth. Suggestions incorporate both the natural and social sciences, with examples appropriate for children of all ages.

Because this is a unique globe, many people will first respond with “what is it?” Even for those who recognize our home planet, the absence of place names, national boundaries, and other conventional globe and map information have many folks wondering just how it can be a very practical tool. This handbook is designed to assist you in discovering some of the many applications and uses for your EarthBall. It can be a wonderful complementary globe to the one you may already have in your classroom or at home. It’s unique properties are an invitation for you to explore the whole Earth as if you were just discovering it, perhaps approaching from deep space and gazing at this wondrous blue planet for the very first time.

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The first maps and globes were hand drawn individually. It took many centuries until these original designs could be reproduced via printing press technology. More recently, with the advent of high altitude aerial, space and satellite photography, we have developed the tools to create maps and world globes with remarkable accuracy. Only in the last several years, has it finally become possible to assemble this wealth of photographic information into authentic “reality” maps and globes.

Inspired by the photographs of the whole Earth taken by the Apollo astronauts on their voyages to and from the moon, EarthBalls were created for the billions of humans who are unable to travel into deep space and observe our beautiful home planet as it truly appears. Earthballs are the first world replicas to display global weather imagery. Featuring the latest generation of NASA satellite data, these photorealstic world globes are the most visually authentic models of our planet Earth available in the known universe.

The illustration that you see on the EarthBall was created by NASA, using a collection of satellite-based images of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds. NASA integrated thousands of these flat images into a cohesive world map. Orbis World Globes then transformed this flat map into the EarthBall -the world’s first photorealistic three-dimensional model of our planet.


At any given time, our planet is covered by clouds over approximately 50% of its surface. With the EarthBall, every effort has been made to replicate the Earth as it actually looks from space. However, the cloud cover has been slightly modified so that the continental shapes are easily recognizable. The weather patterns are intended to be meteorologically accurate. The season represented is Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and Spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

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          • Make sure that the EarthBall is fully inflated. It wants to be wrinkle free, completely spherical, and even expanded somewhat so that it is firm to the touch and will bounce on a hard surface. If you have trouble with the valve staying in, simply let it dry out a bit.
          • Your EarthBall likes to be thrown around and is designed for active play. However, sharp pointed objects will damage it. The enclosed adhesive patch can generally repair a puncture leak. For small holes around the seams, use a tube of vinyl repair glue or clear fingernail polish.
          • The EarthBall does not like extremes in temperature. A hot stove or very, very cold weather can be harmful. For optimum operating temperature try to maintain an average distance of 92 million miles to the sun.
          • Toxic chemicals can also damage your EarthBall and pollute valuable groundwater supplies, lakes, streams, and oceans. Avoid exposure to these. An abundance of fresh, clean water is very beneficial.
          • Excess radiation is extremely hazardous. Do not expose your EarthBall to unnecessary nuclear warfare or nuclear power plant accidents.
          • Too much ultraviolet radiation can also be harmful. Avoid excessive sunlight and ozone depleting substances.
          • Take good care of this precious world and you will be able to enjoy it for a long time to come.


Our Earth is unique in our solar system. Of the nine planets orbiting our Sun, it is the only one known to support life. In fact, our planet teems with life – there are over 5 billion humans, 4.4 billion domestic animals, 1,667,000 billion wild animals, 580,000 billion water creatures, and many more billions of insects, land and water plants, and bacteria! There are very few places on Earth where life does not exist.

All life on our planet lives within a thin layer called the biosphere. This layer, which envelopes the Earth, contains all the oceans, mountains, and the atmosphere. It is so thin that at the scale of the EarthBall all life would lie within a film less than half the thickness of this page. There are between 7 and 30 million species of animals, fish, birds, insects, trees and other plants. We are learning that the biosphere is a very complex and fragile web of interdependent life which all species must share to survive and be healthy.

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One of the unique aspects of the EarthBall is that it illustrates cloud forms. Notice the directions in which the big storms rotate in different areas of the planet. Can you see how they spin clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere? This is due to the global air current created by the Earth’s rotation. Can you show which way the Earth rotates? Think about where you see the sun rise and set. Can you identify other cloud patterns?


Here is an easy experiment that will help you to understand the relationship of our planet to the sun. Place your EarthBall on a table in sunlight so that your present location on it faces up and its North Pole points towards true north. Now the real sunlight is falling on the globe just as it is on the real Earth. Notice where it is day, and where it is night. Where on Earth is the day just beginning right now? Where is it ending right now? Try this experiment at different times of the day and at different seasons when the sun shines at a higher or lower angle.


Our moon is approximately 279,000 miles from Earth and is about 1/4 its size – 2160 miles in diameter. A 4″ diameter object such as a grapefruit can be used to model this relationship with your EarthBall. How far away from the globe would you hold the fruit to show the distance between the real Earth and moon? 10 feet away? 20 feet? You may have to step outside. The correct distance is 38 feet apart! Isn’t it amazing that the moon from such a distance can create the ocean’s tides twice a day around the world? Imagine the vast distance that the Apollo astronauts traveled to the moon and back.


You can use your EarthBall to map out routes of exploration, trade, animal migration, travel, etc. Use a water soluble felt tip pen to draw on the ball. Be sure to test a small area to be sure that it will erase. Try using different colors to symbolize various animals, historical periods or whatever you are mapping. You can create a three dimensional visual aid for your next history or science report.


Do you wish that your EarthBall had names on it so that you could find where places are? Try placing adhesive dots on the places you want to identify. They can be numbered to correspond with a printed key of the place names. A conventional globe or world map will help to locate them. Colored dots can be used to key different types of places such as cities, mountains, deserts and oceans.


Wildlife such as dinosaurs, mammals, birds, and whales can all be shown in their respective habitats on the EarthBall. As in the Key to Places above, you can use adhesive dots to represent them. Or use printed stickers of the kinds of wildlife you are studying. You may also draw your own on blank stickers and place them on the globe.


Here is a fun activity that will help you orient yourself to other places on the planet. From where you stand, can you point directly towards Europe or Australia? Use the EarthBall to help find them. Hold the ball so that your present location on it faces up and it is aligned with true north. Then, locate Australia on the ball and notice where it is in relation to yourself. From North America you will see that it is almost directly below your feet! Europe would be east and down about 45 degrees below the horizon. You will discover that the straight line to any distant location around the globe from yourself is down, through the Earth. With a little practice, can you point directly to each of the continents? Your friends will be amazed to learn where they really are.


If you were to fly from New York to Hong Kong what route would you take? Surprisingly, the shortest route between these two cities takes you almost directly over the North Pole. The Earthball and a piece of string will help you find the shortest distances between any two points. You can mark distances and/or flying times on the string. These direct paths are called great circle routes. The Equator is also a great circle route.


The scales printed on the inside front and back cover of this booklet will enable you to measure miles and kilometers between locations on the EarthBall. You can make another scale yourself that shows how far one can travel by jetliner in a given amount of time. A jetliner flies about 550 miles or 885 kilometers per hour. How far from the South Pole are you and how long would it take to fly there? How many hours would it take to fly around the world at the Equator if you didn’t have to stop to refuel?


The six seams around your EarthBall represent six major lines of longitude on the Earth: 30, 90, and 150 degrees East, and 30, 90, and 150 degrees West. To identify these, first locate the seam that runs through the Atlantic Ocean. This is the 30 degree West longitude line. The seam through Africa is the 30 degree East line. Midway between these two seams runs the 0 degree line, which is also known as the Prime Meridian. Halfway around the world from the Prime Meridian, midway between the 150 degree West and 150 degree East seams, runs the 180 degree longitude line, also known as the International Date Line. Can you find it?

The EarthBall will also function as a time clock to indicate what time it is anywhere. As you know, it takes 24 hours for our planet to complete one revolution. Since the seams divide the ball into six equal panels, the east-west distance across each panel represents four hours. To determine the present time at any location around the world, simply add four hours to your local time for each panel you cross heading east, and subtract four hours for each panel you cross heading west. To calculate smaller distances, divide each panel into four one-hour segments. Did you notice that the further you are from the Equator the less east-west distance it takes to traverse time zones?

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The EarthBall is ideal for younger children to learn to play volleyball with. Since it is larger and lighter than a regular volleyball, it is safer and easier for them to use. Several varieties of the game can be played, including Rotation Volley, in which each of the players rotate between sides, thereby encouraging the concept that everyone is playing together on the same team. Infinity volley has the goal of keeping the ball aloft as long as possible and can be played with or without a net, perhaps in a circle. In this game, everyone always wins!


Earthtoss is a game of developing global knowledge. The players gather into a circle and pass the ball among themselves. Upon catching the globe, that player identifies the land area (continent, country) that is facing them, and other facts about that area such as language, climate or historic information. They then pass it on and the game continues. A variation of this game has the passer posing a question which the catcher tries to answer. Use your imagination to create variations on these and other games. Have Fun!


In addition to the above games and activities there are many other uses for your EarthBall. Following are a few examples that others have discovered. Experiment to see what new applications you can find!

        • Hang it up as a mobile. It will provide great decoration for parties and special events, and will enhance the decor of your classroom or home.
        • Give the world to someone you care about! Children of all ages love playing with the balls. Babies seem to be especially attracted to them.
        • Many balls have been taken on citizen diplomacy trips to the Soviet Union and other countries as a universal symbol of our global interdependence. EarthBalls have been taken on peace walks, to environmental fairs, musical benefits, etc.

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What would success for all of humankind on planet Earth look like? Presently, we produce twice the amount of food necessary to feed everyone on Earth, yet 13 to 18 million people die of starvation each year. There are over 800 million people living in abject poverty, illiterate, and without access to medicine. The nations of Earth are spending 900 billion dollars a year on weaponry, almost two and one-half billion dollars a day! We are causing the extinction of 10,000 species of flora and fauna a year. The world’s deserts grow 80,000 square miles each year. We are polluting our land, air, and oceans. What’s wrong with this picture?

Can we somehow transcend our fear and mistrust of one another? Can we redirect our immense collective energies towards creating a world in balance, where all of humanity shares the same essential opportunities; to be healthy, nourished, and educated? Especially, can we create a world where children are secured the opportunity to simply grow up and inherit a planet that is a beautiful and harmonious place to live?

The image of the Earth as a tiny and precious oasis floating in black space has had a profound effect on how humankind views itself. The notion that all nations and cultures must co-exist on this finite sphere is increasingly becoming the context within which millions of people think and act. This global context is exemplified by a new awareness; one that senses the interconnectedness of all life, and acts to protect and preserve the Earth as the sustainer of this life. Indigenous native cultures everywhere have long held this concept at the center of their understanding.

Creating a healthy and sustainable world has become both a matter of survival and a feasible option. For example:

        • Many third world nations, previously hungry and dependent on outside assistance, have achieved levels of self-sustainability in food production in recent years.
        • The cost for global restoration of the environment has been estimated by the Worldwatch Institute to be only 15% of current world military spending.
        • The United States could save enough energy and money using current proven energy-efficient technologies to pay off its entire national debt by the year 2000.
        • Recycling is being instituted in communities across the U.S. as an viable solution for solid waste disposal at only one half the cost of its environmentally hazardous competitor, mass incineration.
        • The superpowers have recognized the futility of nuclear warfare and are taking the first small, yet significant steps towards defusing the stalemate. The level of cultural, economic, and scientific exchange between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. has never been greater. As with China, the United States seems destined to transform an adversarial relationship into a productive and friendly one.

One of the keys to our success on planet Earth lies in the realm of responsibility and opportunity. As stewards of this world, we have inherited a very special responsibility to ourselves and our descendants. We have been empowered with the opportunity to transform the world into one that reflects our grandest dreams. Can we make this happen?

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from Vital Statistics of Spaceship Earth by World Game Institute

        • Circumference at Equator: 24,875
        • Diameter through N-S Poles: 7899 miles
        • Diameter at Equator: 7,926 miles (bulging is due to the centrifugal force created by Earth’s rotation)
        • Surface area: 196,879,339 square miles
        • Volume: 259,924 million cubic miles
        • Mass of Earth: 6.575 x 10 to the 21st power
        • Highest recorded temperature: 136 degrees F at El Azizia, Libya
        • Lowest temperature: -127 degrees F at Vostok, Antarctica
        • Average temperatures: night = 32 degrees F; day = 72 degrees F
        • Mean rotational velocity at Equator: 1,040 mph
        • Mean orbital velocity: 66,597 mph
        • Distance from Earth to Moon: 238,866 miles
        • Distance from Earth to Sun: 91,400,000 – 94,500,000 miles (variation due to Earth’s elliptical orbit around the Sun)
        • Oldest living species on Earth: Bristlecone Pines -up to 5000 yrs
        • Number of known / catalogued species: 1.7 million
        • Number of unknown species: 5 to 30 million
        • Ocean volume: 317,000,000 cubic miles
        • Total world water supply: 326,071,300 cubic miles (cubic mile water = 1,101,117,143,000 gallons)
        • Deepest part of ocean: Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean: 35,810 ft
        • Ice caps and glaciers: 7,000,000 cubic miles of water (90% is located on Antarctica)
        • Mean depth of ocean: 4,000 meters
        • Greatest rainfall over 12 mo. period: 1,042 ” – Cherrapunji, India
        • Greatest snowfall in a season: 93 feet; Mt. Rainier, WA U.S.A.
        • Proportion of surface water in the Northern Hemisphere: 50% Southern Hemisphere: 90%
        • Mean annual rainfall over Earth’s land surface: 74.6 cm
        • At any given moment 2,200 thunderstorms occur on the Earth’s surface: audible at an 18 mile range
        • Atmosphere height from sea level: 18,000 miles, 99% is in the lowest 50 miles; weather limited to first 5 to 10 miles
        • Total languages and dialects in the World: 5,800
Land area by continent
Square kilometers
% of world total
Asia 27,590,000 18.9%
Africa 30,043,000 20.5%
North America 19,339,000 13.3%
South America 17,716,000 12.1%
Central America 2,693,000 1.8%
Europe 4,871,000 3.3%
Oceania 8,436,000 5.8%
Antarctica 13,219,000 9.0%
World 146,309,000 100%