Monday, April 21

Call yourself a geologist?

You get some really daft people managing to get stories into the media. Fundamentalist Christians in the US are very good at this. Not to be left out, some twit claiming to be a geologist has managed to have their declaration that Mecca time should replace GMT because Mecca was in "perfect alignment to magnetic north" get reported by the BBC.

He's clearly not a geologist, as any *real* geologist knows that Magnetic North moves. Currently by about 41km a year. It moved 1100km over the 20th century. I'm not an expert on Saudi Arabian cities, but I'm pretty sure that Mecca doesn't move around the desert anywhere near as much (and it'd have to move rather faster than magnetic north, given that the fixed point on the circle, the north pole, is much closer to Magnetic North than it is to Mecca).

Also - and I haven't bothered to work out exactly, but there's probably a nice Great Circle mapper on Google somewhere - the great circle that passes through wherever Magnetic North currently is and the North Pole will also pass through a number of other places. At a rough guess from looking at the map, I'd be pretty confident that a Great Circle that passes through Mecca and the North Pole is going to go pretty close to both Moscow and the west coast of North America. So - why Mecca time and not Moscow time? Or even Hollywood time? At least we'd know when the latest TV shows will appear on the internet...

Or what if they mean a line where magnetic north and true north are the same? Well, this is a complex beast, due to local effects, but again, one such line passes through the US - from Lake Superior and across the western panhandle of Florida - and another through Europe - in 2000, this ran pretty much slap bang through Copenhagen (you know, the place with the cartoonists) and nowhere near Mecca.

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