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An American College Test sample question asks:

Based on the shadow directions in these experiments, which of the following best describes the difference between the apparent path of the Sun as seen from the observation points in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres?

A. The Sun travels a more southerly path in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere.

B. The Sun travels a more northerly path in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere.

C. The Sun rises in the East and sets in the West in the Northern Hemisphere, but the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.

D. The Sun rises in the West and sets in the East in the Northern Hemisphere, but the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.

I've read the explanation for B several times. I don't understand the meaning of "traveling a more northerly path" in the southern hemisphere. Does the alignment of the compass and the shadow show the reverse direction in which the sun is traveling? (In this case, since 9 of the 15 directions recorded pointed South, the compass directions were aligned to point North.)

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  • $\begingroup$ @JanDoggen - The link worked fine for me, but that was yesterday. It doesn't work anymore because this is a question of the day site; the question has changed. Fortunately, the wayback archive saved a copy. I'll edit the question to use that. It would be even better if the question stood by itself. That, however, would require copying the question, and that may be a case of copyright infringement. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Sep 10 '15 at 10:43
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When taking these standardized tests, the first thing to do is to try to solve the problem. If the problem is weirdly stated, as standardized test writers are wont to do, the next thing to do is to eliminate obvious non-answers. (I didn't know that when I took those tests 40+ years ago.)

Choices C and D are obviously wrong. The data shows that regardless of hemisphere shadows point more or less to the west at sunrise, east at sunset. Since the shadows point opposite the Sun, this means the Sun rises in the east, sets in the west. This leaves choices A and B as the only viable options.

Try to match columns (days) from tables one and two based on shadow length against choices A and B. Day 1 in table 1 is an exact match against day 2 in table 2. This column doesn't help with answering the question. The other two columns do help. Day 2 in table 1 is most similar to day 1 in table 2, and day 3 in table 1 is most similar to day 3 in table 2.

Day 2 in table 1 and day 1 in table 2 are most illustrative. Every shadow in day 2, table 1 has some northward component while every shadow in day 1, table 2 has some southward component. Since the shadows point opposite the Sun, this suggests (B) is the correct answer. This is consistent with the other results.

As a sanity check, what about option (A)? This is not consistent with the tabulated results from day 2 in table 1 versus day 1 in table 2, or from day 3 in table 1 versus day 3 in table 2. Option (B) is the only possible answer.

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    $\begingroup$ @Michael -- I reverted your edit. My use of "are wont to do" is grammatically correct, and the meaning of that phraseology is exactly what I intended when I first wrote this answer. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Aug 11 '16 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ my bad, point taken $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Aug 11 '16 at 19:04

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