Plotting Your Location
Using longitude and latitude, it is now possible to accurately describe any location on the Earth within a correct distance of only a few inches. Your home or school probably has a street address. Perhaps it looks something like 6088 Garden Gate Drive. These numbers tell the mailman where to deliver your mail, and visitors how to find you. While physical addresses are very useful, longitude and latitude are more concise and accurate. A physical address is based on a local system, understood and accepted only by a small community. Longitude and latitude are accepted worldwide by the entirety of humanity. If you know your longitude and latitude, you can tell a distant pen pal exactly where you are on this sphere-shaped planet.
For hundreds of years, calculating your longitude and latitude was a somewhat difficult process. Using specialized tools and the stars as a guide, trained experts could determine their location, and make sure that their travels were still on course. However, due to the limits of their equipment, these measurements were only approximate.
Today, anyone can quickly and accurately measure their location on the Earth. One popular method for determining the latitude and longitude of an object is through the use of Global Positioning Satellites, or GPS. Inexpensive GPS devices use the signals from satellites orbiting the Earth to calculate the exact location of the person holding the device. Many of these devices also allow the user to save their favorite locations in a small computer so that these locations can quickly be found in the future.
Do you want to visit a hidden waterfall in the middle of the vast Utah desert? You could get directions from the locals, but chances are high that you will get lost. In the desert, everything looks pretty much the same. How do you know that you going in the right direction? Using GPS as your guide, you can rest assured that you are not going to get lost. Look up the exact longitude and latitude of the waterfall, either online or in a book. These coordinates can then be entered into the device, which can then be used to guide you to the exact spot where the waterfall is hidden. These advances in technology make traveling much easier today than it was in the past.