Being a chronically over-educated and pedantic curmudgeon I sometimes find myself getting extremely annoyed about things of little consequence at all. Currently causing my blood to, if not boil certainly simmer, is an article in that renowned organ the Worcester Telegram and Gazette News, which has served the people of central Massachusetts since 1986.
The article is actually pretty good news – a woman (allegedly) abducted her granddaughter and was tracked down with the help of cell phone co-ordinates and Google Maps. What’s annoying me is the apparent complete ignorance of the authors regarding something as simple as reading co-ordinates off a map.
“It then became a back and forth effort between the cell phone company, the police officer and Deputy Chief Lozier, who received latitude and longitude coordinates and triangulated them to learn where the two missing people were.”
So Deputy Chief Lozier “triangulated” the latitude and longitude? I find this hard to believe.
Triangulation is the process of taking bearings from two or more known locations towards an unknown location, and plotting said bearings to determine the position of said unknown location (where the bearings cross). A deceptively simple process, it was absolutely crucial to the making of accurate maps before the development of aerial and satellite photography, and remains important in cartography, navigation and the tracking of radio signals.
It is not used however in reading latitude and longitude off a map, which is a simple process of finding the appropriate markings on the margins and tracing them to where they cross, something even a child can do with minimal instruction.
To the authors of the article however reading co-ordinates off a map (not that you even have to do this if you’re using Google Maps) is apparently a strange and arcane science, involving high level mathematics and possibly the sacrifice of a goat – as opposed to simply “looking” and “reading”. Such a complicated process needs a suitably grand title, and “triangulation” fits the bill because it has something to do with maps and no-one (or at least no one who reads or works at the Telegram and Gazette) really knows what it means anyway.
This frankly is sloppy journalism. Sure, I understand the need to simplify concepts for publication and that a newspaper is no place for a detailed exploration of cartographic techniques, but a certain level of accuracy in terminology is surely not too much to aspire to? To refer to reading co-ordinates off a map as “triangulation” is akin to referring to a horse as a mule – sure they’re related, but no editor would let such a slip get through to print.
So yeah, that’s what’s annoying me at the moment – the general ignorance of the population in relation to basic cartographic and geometric terminology. Honestly, it’s like they’re not even trying. 🙂
Back to work tomorrow. Urgh.