Saturday, January 10, 2015

Prologue, topology and geodesy

A flat paper map does a pretty poor job of depicting the nature of a spherical planet. 

That is why the flight path from Virginia to Tokyo--a great circle route--seems so counter-intuitive. Why arc over the Great Lakes to the Canadian Shield and out across Alaska, the Aleutians and part of Siberia before finally getting around to Japan? Why not, you know, just go hard left, follow the straight line on the map until we get there? 

Yeah, that's the beauty of the whole 'great circle' thing. It's the shortest route between any two points on a sphere, and represents a segment of a circle whose center coincides with the center of the sphere. But there's another thing...

Way back, like a year ago in the early days of this program, we did this 'team-building' exercise thing. The scenario was a smallish float plane crashing near the arctic circle, well off the beaten path (if that's not redundant), not to be missed or overdue for two weeks, with the pilot killed in the crash. Your team has salvaged a number of odd items from the wreckage before it sinks beneath the icy waters. The point of the exercise was for the team to rank the survival value of the items you chose, then score your rankings against the rankings of some Canadian Mountie arctic survival experts.

But dayammm. All of us flying over the Canadian Shield, the Yukon, Alaska, the Aleutians...Siberia? Man, if this turns out to be some crappy team-building exercise, I'ma be pissed. I've really been looking forward to seeing where we're allegedly going.

However, I will be taking the sleeping bags, tarp, maple syrup and 151 proof rum. Hatchet be damned.

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