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10Jun2015

Next Time Thank Albert Einstein If Your GPS Gets You Somewhere On Time

 

Imagine that you along with your friends are trekking in a forest. After sometime, you people have no idea where you are and how to get back to the starting point.

What will you do?

The first thing that will come to your mind is Google Maps. GPS helps you to get where you want to be.  But have you ever thought about the invention of GPS. 

All this is possible only because of one guy and his fancy mathematics. The math is known as The General Theory of Relativity and the fabulous guy is none other than Albert Einstein.

“See, the whole idea of GPS is that you put atomic clocks in satellites orbiting the planet, and what a GPS signal is actually broadcasting down from space is a time signal,” says Hiawatha Bray, author of "You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves."

His works pointed out that clock in space moves at a different speed than clocks on Earth. GPS accuracy is made possible by taking into account those crucial differences.

Early systems tested by the Navy were fickle, Bray notes. “You had to wait till the satellite was overhead; it was useless for giving you altitude information.” Building in an “Einsteinian fudge factor” turned out to be key to success.

The Government distributed GPS to military and into our daily lives. “The FCC, back in the late 90s, realized that people were shifting to handheld mobile phones”. FCC mandated that some sort of positioning system must be built into phones as 9-1-1 calls from handheld phones gave little sense of where the calls are coming from.

The only question now remaining is that whether our government is peeping into our lives far too much with GPS.

“I don’t know anybody who’d want to be bereft of GPS,” says Bray. “It has been an amazing technical breakthrough. The problem here isn’t the technology. We have got to figure out how to build hedges around the way it’s used.”

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Next Time Thank Albert Einstein If Your GPS Gets You Somewhere On Time
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