Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Men Never Outgrow Their Love of Toys

     I guess I am no different from most other men – I like gadgets. I know there are some wonderful toys that I am missing, but if I am sure I have no use for an iPhone, xBox, and the like, I don't buy them. And I decided that even though the ultimate toy, my car, is 10 model years old, it's in good shape, and I don't need a new one. However, we are driving from Pennsylvania to Texas next week, so I did spring for a GPS, and it's really fascinating.
     I downloaded the owner's manual and after perusing it, sort of (owners' manuals are to use when you can't figure it out otherwise), I entered my home address into the instrument. I had to test that, so I drove a couple of miles, turned around, and hit the “Home” button.
     I was a bit disappointed in the results: it got me home OK, but it didn't take the shortcuts I would have taken. It did keep saying “recalculating” a few times, and when I got within a block or two of the house, it found just the way I would have. I guess it needs to live here a while to learn the little tricks.
     Of course, I tried it on some other local destinations, and all in all it worked out pretty well. I am sure that if I were a stranger in this area, it would get me where I wanted to go, although I would use a bit more gas than a local would. I know it will come in handy on our trip for finding food, gas and lodging.
     I also got curious about the behind-the-scenes working of the device, so I did a little homework. Generally one must be in line-of-sight to four satellites. Each one sends out its precise location and time, and three of them intersect at the GPS instrument to give its location in space at the instant of intersection. But if the time at the instrument is not exactly correct, the location may be off by an unacceptable distance. Hence, the fourth satellite's time signal is compared to the time the hand held instrument is recording, and the difference is used to calculate the spatial displacement.
     You got that? Neither do I, but you can look it up if you are interested. Suffice to say, if it hadn't been for Einstein, we would not have a GPS system, and I would not have a new toy.
     We can observe the rites of a religion; we can photograph or record them, but we cannot record the emotions, beliefs and attitudes which the participants entertain as a group. Likewise we can photograph a rain dance, but the photos do not indicate what the group has in mind as a group. We can observe the zigs and zags of a school of sardines, but we cannot photograph the instincts or communications behind the highly synchronized motions as a group.
     Constructs For Understanding the spirit – The Spirit Runs Through It.

     The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

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