An Explicit Isometric Reduction of the Unit Sphere into an Arbitrarily Small Ball
Spheres are known to be rigid geometric objects: they cannot be deformed isometrically, i.e., while preserving the length of curves, in a twice differentiable way. An unexpected result by Nash (Ann Math 60:383–396, 1954) and Kuiper (Indag Math 17:545–555, 1955) shows that this is no longer the case if one requires the deformations to be only continuously differentiable. A remarkable consequence of their result makes possible the isometric reduction of a unit sphere inside an arbitrarily small ball. In particular, if one views the Earth as a round sphere, the theory allows to reduce its diameter to that of a terrestrial globe while preserving geodesic distances. Here, we describe the first explicit construction and visualization of such a reduced sphere. The construction amounts to solve a nonlinear PDE with boundary conditions. The resulting surface consists of two unit spherical caps joined by a \(C^1\) fractal equatorial belt. An intriguing question then arises about the transition between the smooth and the \(C^1\) fractal geometries. We show that this transition is similar to the one observed when connecting a Koch curve to a line segment.