In 2003, the Annals of Improbable Research released the results of a study that was not so much groundbreaking as it was ground-battering: Kansas, the tongue-in-cheek analysis found, was flatter than a pancake. The researchers Mark Fonstad, William Pugatch, and Brandon Vogt used polynomial equations to calculate the flatness of the famously flat state, and discovered that—as compared to the topography of an IHOP pancake—it was indeed flatter than a flapjack.
Their finding was not incorrect. Parts of Kansas are, in fact, flatter than a pancake! But the study’s focus on Kansas, it turns out, was also misleading. Because there are states—six of them, to be specific—that are even flatter than Kansas. The states flatter than a pancake, you could say, could be served in a short stack.
This latest flatness finding comes courtesy of geographers at the University of Kansas, who just published a paper, “The Flatness of U.S. States,” in Geographical Review, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Geographical Society. KU Professor Jerome Dobson and his colleague Joshua Campbell, who works at the State Department's Office of the Geographer, conducted a “geomorphometric analysis” of the contiguous United States—a measure, basically, of the nation’s lumps and bumps. To do that, the pair developed a method for reckoning flatness, creating an algorithm that would allow them to develop a comprehensive estimate of states’ relative pancakery.