Moslem call to prayer and the Great Circle route


Posted On: Wednesday - April 5th 2017 8:23AM MST
In Topics: 
  Music  Humor  Geography

The thing is, these Moslems, like the gentleman with his butt in the air below, are supposed to face toward Mecca when praying. I've also heard though, that they are supposed to face East. I'm trying to reconcile this. Now, East is at least somewhat the correct direction, within say 30 degrees, for Moslems in Europe, who are getting pretty ubiquitous there, I'd say too damn ubiquitous. What about the huge amount of Pakistani ones, or the Bangaladouchan ones? What about guys that live in the eastern suburbs, just a camel's ride away from the center of Mecca? Should they pray directly or the long way, all the way around? We need to talk some geography here and long distance navigation and the Great Circle route.

(Does this guy know his geography? Does his Imam even know which way his ass should be pointed? We gotta fix this - it's bordering on sacrilege.)


OK, in long-distance nav. you've got a point across the globe, or across a continent, that you're trying to head for - in this case just point your head at. A lot of people don't understand the Great Circle - shortest distance between 2 points - here on the surface (important point later on "surface") of this 8,000 mile diameter sphere we live on. It does not matter for cross-town travel, and usually within a state not too much unless it's a flight (allowing for a straight line) in a mostly east-west direction in a big state, say Nebraska.

Now take a look at the globe. NO, you can't do this on your phone! It's got a flat screen, not a spherical segment. You need an actual 3D globe, dammit. Let's just think about a Washington, FS - San Francisco, CA road trip. From a look at the globe I estimate Wash, FS at 38 deg N. and San Fran at 37 deg N. A look at a flat map or layout with a ruler would make you think that the shortest drive will take you through central Missouri and central Kansas, when, in fact a string layed on the globe, pulled tight, and touching both cities will show you going through Lincoln, Nebraska and right through Salt Lake City, UT. OK, I realize the interstates don't all go exactly the way we'd like, and also you've only got certain routes through the mountains. Once you get west of the Missouri, or the dry line of the midwest, I prefer to drive on the 2-lane highways anyway - you can still haul ass.

The great circle route becomes even more important for long-distance airline flights. It is fun to lay the string on the globe to see where the shortest distance route lays. You will see why the Midwest to Asia flights will go over the north slope of Alaska - not to be near land that may have an airport (which is always a good thing, though), but it's the shortest way. In fact, to go from Washington, Federal Shithole to Shanghai, China, instead of starting off due west, as one might think (Shanghai is about at the same latitude) one should head at about a true heading of 350 deg, just 10 degrees to the west of due north! What else is cool, is that the GC route will take you only about 8-9 degrees from the North Pole, or about 600 miles away - better hope the fuel heating system was made, designed, and tested with pride in America.

How does this relate to the Moslem guy above with his butt in the air, the erudite reader may well ask? I'll tell you. These people need to get more scientific and join the age of exploration (wait, they may have missed it - started in the 15th century AD, and just ended a few decades back... damn, too bad). There's gotta be an app for this, right, or at least a website where one can get a Great Circle heading toward Mecca that would be the correct direction in which to pray. Wait, there's more! What about magnetic vs. true heading? Should they be praying on a magnetic heading to Mecca or the true heading.

With these differences in geometry between Euclidean, based on a flat surface, and non-Euclidean, and the Magnetic vs. True direction thing, I can see Islam breaking up into a few more sects. The Euclidean vs. Non-Euclidean Moslems, and the Magnetic vs. True Moslems, and combinations thereof. Will we see political infighting and even holy Jihad between these sects, as the iphone apps get improved, and more importantly, as the magnetic variation slowly shifts from place to place? To head this off, they will need a wise holy man, an Ayatollah of Geography, if you will. Otherwise, these people could get violent .... oh wait....

I cannot in good conscience end this post on geography without the following music video, I mean, come on, how many geography songs are there? One?

"Stand" by REM off the 1988 album "Green":


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