Tag Archives: latitude

A Good Latitude

To start the last week of March Mathness, because it’s a Monday, I’m going to go easy on y’all with some light, easy topics. (Maybe I can lull you into paying attention for the major topic of the month: matrix rotation.)

It has occurred to me that, if I’m talking about math in March, I absolutely must mention one of my all-time favorite mathematical objects, the Mandelbrot. I’ll try to get to that today, but the main topic is a simple something that I ran into while working on my 3D model of the big island of Hawaii.

The question was: How many miles are there per degree of latitude?

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Dimensional Coordinates

you are hereThe maps you find in some buildings and malls have a little marker flag that says, “You are here!” The marker connects the physical reality of where you are standing at that moment with a specific point on a little flat map.

Your GPS device provides your current location in terms of longitude and latitude. Those numbers link your physical location with a specific point on any globe or map of the Earth.

But to fully represent our location, longitude and latitude are not quite enough. (We might be high overhead in a hot air balloon!) To fully represent our position, we need a little more ‘tude, but in this case that’s altitude, not attitude.

We need three (and only three) coordinates to completely represent our location in space. This post is about why.

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Sideband #34: The North Star

I had a small dinner party last night so that some friends could come over for some ‘za and beer and catch up on the latest antics of Nancy Botwin and company on Weeds. Per the old saying, “A good time was had by all.” Or to put it less passively, “As usual, we had a blast! (And that Nancy… craaaaaaa-zy!!)”

However, in the course of conversation I realized not everyone knows about the magic behind our north star (Polaris by name) and found myself taking the virtual podium to explain. It’s one of those things that’s common knowledge to many, but may come as a complete surprise to others.

So for those of you not familiar with the navigational magic behind the north star, here’s the deal.

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