Monday, November 16, 2015

Pole-Vaulting Troubadore


During Arlo Guthrie's recent concert at the fabulous Zeiterion in New Bedford, he played a song with an infectious melody and lyrics that were only vaguely familiar. So I found the song on YouTube, and thought he said something about Baltimore. Checking the lyrics, I found that the line I was mis-hearing is actually:

Coming in from London from over the pole

Which of course is geographic! He is referring to the great-circle route from London to Los Angeles. Counter-intuitively, one leaves London headed northwest to get to Los Angeles, which is to the southeast. You can try this kind of routing on a globe by stretching string from one point to another. You can also do it more precisely at Great Circle Mapper.
The lesson, alas, is not entirely accurate. A London-Los Angeles flight does go poleward, but it only gets to about 62 degrees north latitude, not breaking the Arctic Circle.
As for the rest of the geography of the song, we'll save that for another day -- the traveler has a "couple of ki's" he would rather not reveal to Customs.

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