“Just A Second!”

A discussion in one of my Virtual Class sessions about converting and rounding geographic coordinates led to this question from a student: “Who needs to deal or work with seconds?” A non geography major (and perhaps many geography majors) do not have a conception of arc or global coordinate distance, perhaps because this is (slightly) an abstract conception.

Remember the ‘69 mile’ rule? This is an easy way to convey the impression of global distances and Great Circle routes. A Great Circle is any circle that would use the center of the Earth as the radii point. The Equator is a Great Circle. A (one) meridian is half a Great Circle. A Great Circle is the shortest distance between any two points. A Great Circle bisects the Earth into two equal pieces (“bisect” is the clue). Assuming the 69 mile rule, students can calculate the Earth circumference, and I have them do that on quizzes. A complete circle is 360 degrees (such as a Great Circle). If we assume 69 miles per degree, then 69 x 360 = Earth circumference (with all due respect and apology to those geodesy scientists who know this is a gross exaggeration.). How does that equate into minutes? Seconds?

69 miles = one degree, then

1 minute = 69 miles / 60 minutes = 1.15 miles

1 second = 1.15 miles / 60 seconds = .019 miles, or better 101.2 feet

In a rough sense, if I was lost in the ocean with a GPS receiver that showed degrees-minutes-seconds, I could convey my location roughly within a 100 feet box to my potential rescue helicopter. Consider storms, waves, tides, currents, fog, rain, snow, sleet, and nighttime. How safe do you feel? Ah, when seconds count! Temporal and spatial!
GPS shows even greater (decimal place) accuracy, which makes it an important tool for surveyors and engineers for construction, military types for accurate destruction, and geography instructors for regurgitation.

– S. Robinson

Member Spotlight – Pat Larson

This month, we will feature an Individual for our Member Spotlight. That Individual is Pat Larson. Pat works for the Grand Island Public School District. Responses are his own.


NE GIS/LIS: Tell us a little about your company and your role.

PL: I work for the Grand Island Public School District.  We are a k-12 district with an enrollment of over 10,000 students.  I am responsible for the care and maintenance of our Student Information System (SIS).  Part of that responsibility includes maintaining the address locations of our Students.  This helps us, among other things, to keep tract of attendance centers and help balance our enrollment with changing population densities.

NE GIS/LIS: How long have you worked with GIS?

PL: I have worked with GIS for the past 21 years.  I was introduced to GIS during Graduate research at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.  We were mapping rare/endangered plants and small mammals along the Loup River corridor for the Bureau of Land Management.  We used GIS extensively to help select sites and to map out locations.

NE GIS/LIS: What was your first Nebraska GIS/LIS Association activity?

PL: I was a regular attendee in the early years.  Once on the board, I have helps organize breakout sessions and secure laptops for the workshops.

NE GIS/LIS: What do you like most about your job?

PL: My job requires a lot of problem solving.  Many times other staff will want to view data in a different way.  Much of my time is spent querying data and presenting it in unique ways that help people make decisions.

NE GIS/LIS: If you couldn’t choose your current career path, what alternative path/career would you pursue?

PL: I would choose a career path that was devoid of computers.  I would like to have been a window washer for a tall skyscraper or the guy that changes the light bulbs on tall radio towers.

NE GIS/LIS: What is your proudest career moment?

PL: My career has been made up of many great moments.  I’m proud of the Special Achievement in GIS I received for ESRI.  I am proud of the great public access GIS website we have in Grand Island/Hall County that I helped create many years ago.  I am proud that I was asked to fill out a members Spotlight for the Nebraska LIS/GIS Association blog.  And I’m proud of the GIS community in Nebraska.  We are growing!

NE GIS/LIS: What is your proudest personal life moment?

PL: I’m a father of two boys.  Of all the titles and hats I’ve worn, my favorite is Dad.

NE GIS/LIS: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

PL: Right here, doing what I’m doing, where I will keep on keeping on.

NE GIS/LIS: What do you like to do in your spare time?

PL: I am an avid outdoorsman.  In the summer I spend a lot of time on the Middle Loup River where I live, kayaking, fishing or just playing.  In the fall and winter, I hunt.

NE GIS/LIS: We would like to thank Pat Larson for taking part in our Member Spotlight!