Some Longitudinal Lines

On April 22, 2010 · 3 Comments

I have a soft spot for the unintentional readers of the Twelve Mile Circle. Search engines send them randomly to my domain like pollen blowing in the wind. They aren’t consciously trying to arrive at my site. In fact they never knew my site existed. The all-knowing search engines told these mystery readers that I could satisfy their curiosity. These are false positives and the volume increases as I publish more pages.

I love the search engines. I suspect most of you arrived here originally from a search engine query. That’s how I’ve been able to build a nice audience of like-minded geo-oddity enthusiasts over the last couple of years. It’s nice to have people that return regularly, read my simple articles and post their thoughts. False positives inhibit readership. Those people will click over to the next promising link and I will lose them forever.

For the next few entries I’m going to focus on legitimate search engine queries rather than the questionable ones for once. I hope you’ll enjoy the topics even though I’m pandering blatantly to the search engine crowd.

Two questions I’ve noticed in my web logs deal with lines of longitude. Here is the first one for consideration:

Why Aren’t Time Zones Straight Lines?

This question comes up all the time as I review my user statistics. Let’s focus on it directly. It does have a certain appeal on the surface, doesn’t it? Think of how this would simplify maps. That’s true but it would also create unintended consequences. I’m going to examine a situation that could conceivably result in Europe if we followed that method.


Time Zones in Europe
Source: Wikipedia Commons under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation

Let’s pick on the boundary between UTC+1 (Central European Time) and UTC+2 (Eastern European Time). The zones here respect international boundaries. Now let’s draw a line straight down a major longitude, 20° east in this example, and replicate the current time zone boundary as closely as possible.



View Some Longitudinal Lines in a larger map

This provides a good pictorial reason why time zones are not straight lines. Countries would be split. Towns and cities would split. Even individual neighborhoods would be split. Imagine the nightmare of trying to figure out the proper time in any borderland area. Watches would have to come with GPS chips to flip back-and-forth to the proper time as one moved across an arbitrary line. People would be early or late for their appointments, shopping or transportation connections. The line looks pretty on a map but it has no realistic connection to the ground.

It’s much better to let each country decide how to apply time zones that meet the needs of its citizenry.


Is Any Part of Wisconsin Further East than Florida?

I’m endlessly fascinated by longitudes. Seriously. They play all sorts of sneaky tricks on one’s mind, like: which location is further west, Reno or Los Angeles, Glasgow or Madrid, UC Berkeley or Stanford?

I must admit that I’d never thought about the Wisconsin-Florida situation before. However, it seems to be something that multiple people want to know and it’s easy enough to figure out. I think the question should probably be rephrased: Is any part of Wisconsin further east than any part of Florida?

The easternmost point of Wisconsin is found within Lake Michigan northwest of Manitou Island (approximately 86.25° west longitude). The westernmost point of Florida is located within the Perdido River about seven miles east of Bay Minette, Alabama (approximately 87.63° west longitude). That right there tells us that some portion of Wisconsin is further east than some portion of Florida. Let’s draw a couple of lines on the map along the longitudes of easternmost Wisconsin and westernmost Florida.



View Some Longitudinal Lines in a larger map

The part of Wisconsin further east than some of Florida falls within the shaded area,



View Some Longitudinal Lines in a larger map

As does the part of Florida further west than some of Wisconsin.

It’s a bigger overlap than I expected. Thank you, anonymous lurkers, for asking.

On April 22, 2010 · 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Some Longitudinal Lines”

  1. Mike Lowe says:

    Cool work on the Wisconsin section. My parents are from Milwaukee so I like WI.

  2. Joshua says:

    It’s interesting that Russia has a small bit in Eastern European Time zone at Kaliningrad. Then again since the fall of the USSR, Kaliningrad is an interesting detached remnant from the rest of Russia.

  3. twitchard says:

    A Snapple fact brought me here. “Wisconsin had parts farther east than parts of Florida”

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