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“If you flattened it out, it would be as big as Texas.”

That, according to my sister-in-law Eliza, is what her mother used to say about West Virginia.

We were on vacation there last month visiting Eliza and husband Chris. After driving around for a few days, I think her mom may have had a point: Beautiful, lush, rolling hills wherever you looked.

One night, a few days later (full disclosure: I had consumed several beers at this point), I started pondering the “flattening out” question a bit more seriously. Specifically, I got to wondering if the official land area of West Virginia (24,038 square miles) takes into account the ups and downs of all its hills and mountains.

Short answer: It doesn’t. State land calculations are two-dimensional, as they appear on a map and with no attention paid to topography.

Which means that — hang on, this is the part that made me put down my beer — if you own an acre of land in a flat state like Kansas and I own an acre of land in West Virginia, chances are I own more land than you do.

Same square footage on a map; different amount of actual, physical land that you can

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