Geocaching Coordinate Distance Calculator

So I’ve come across more than one puzzle cache that goes something like this: you are given a coordinate. The description then tells you to go X feet from the coordinate heading y degrees. How do you calculate the new coordinates?

No Latitude

Well, you perform some trigonometry to identify the longitudinal and latitudinal distances then perform some algebra to convert those distances into coordinates. Something new that I learned is that the distance between each longitudinal degree is different than the distance between each latitudinal degree. Hence you have to use different divisors for each to determine the coordinates.

The calculator still needs to handle situations where the distance hops over a longitudinal or latitudinal degree, but for most puzzles of this type the calculator will work fine. The calculator even handles jumps over degrees, so adding thousands of feet shouldn’t trip it from providing the correct coordinates.

Here’s what to enter:

  • Distance (Feet) = the distance from the center point in feet. If you’re interested in metric entry and results, post a comment.
  • Heading (Compass Degrees) = the heading in compass degrees. 0 degrees is due North, 90 degrees is due East, 180 degrees is due South, and 270 degrees is due West.
  • Latitude of Origin “N” = coordinates in the format “N XX° YYY.ZZZZ'” where XX is the degrees and YYY.ZZZZ is the decimal minutes. This is the common form that provides for coordinates.
  • Longitude of Origin “W” = the same as the Latitude, only for Longitude. Because it’s frozen as “W”, this calculator will only work for the western hemisphere. Let me know if you’re in the Eastern (or Southern) hemisphere and would like me to update the calculator to accommodate you.

The Calculations are for nerds. The Results are for you. The coordinate results should display a link to Google maps when you’ve entered in all the criteria.

Update: 2017-06-15, I corrected the algorithm. Instead of using the angular distance, it uses a formula based on Haversine distance equation.

Open the Popup Coordinate Distance Calculator

Have fun and post a comment to let me know if it’s useful.

Two photos and something learned

Last week I had the honor to join with my company headquarters in D.C. for business and pleasure. They usually give me one free day to wander around the Nation’s Capitol. During this trip, I ventured into the Arlington National Cemetery.

I had expected a few things about the cemetery, all which were disproved while there. First, it’s not just soldiers that are buried there. Wives, infants and civilians are there, too. Some famous but there are plenty obscure and unknown. Second, as you move closer to the present there are fewer tombstones marked “unknown”.

I had expected there to be no “unknown” tombstones and just one “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” monument. Instead I found many tombstones marked “unknown soldier” – a whole field of them – and two tombs of unknown soldiers. One is the more famous with paths marked to get there. It’s huge with a single, large, uncomfortable marble chair on a stage facing rows of marble pews below. The other is a tomb marking the remains of 2111 unknown Civil War soldiers.

There are no unknown tombs in the Viet Nam plots and only a few in the Korean or World War II plots. World War I has more and Civil War has an entire field of unknown soldiers that were given little more than a number to their name. I suppose there was an absence of dog-tags then. But thought it was worth asking into. The woman at the center desk in the visitors center shed some light into this.

She said that at one time there were a few unknown soldiers in the Viet Nam plots, but that they had since been identified through DNA tests. All soldiers that die this point forward will not be unknown because of that biological technology. If I heard correctly, there are rare cases where bodies are exhumed for this purpose, which is how the last unknowns in the Viet Nam plot were identified.

It’s macabre, but comforting that we are able to identify the dead, but really – what is our identity? It’s certainly more than a chisel mark on a tombstone or a series of amino acids along a protein chain. Our souls are here on earth for a purpose, and like a green leaf on a tree or a single line of code, we’re here to play a small part in something much bigger than any one of us. And though we get lost in the billions of others that have come before us, live around us, and will come after us we are each significant… even if we’re “unknown”.

Semantic Web Is Coming to Town

Web 2.0: an Open Door to the Future

In 1987 MCC (a team that later spun off into Cycorp) presented a futuristic concept in a private AI focus group gathering that is common practice today. Large network systems would be taught how to make sense of data through semantics taught by linguists, professors, psychologists, artists and anthropologists instead of mathematicians and programmers.

The result of this process is that you could query a system for “strong and daring person” and the system would return a picture of a man climbing a mountain cliff. It recognized the photo through tags that were cross-referenced with logical meanings through a language called CycL.

This concept is becoming more of a focus at Google. In the past two years several of the original members of this project began to work for or partner with Google.

Enter 2006, the year of Web 2.0. The technology has been implemented throughout the web and is known by the more common name “social networks”. It’s about how people socialize with each other through interactive systems that collect various forms of data. Companies such as flickr, youTube, blogger and mySpace have capitalized on the technology and understood it. Data can be networked through a series of tags, text, ratings, discussions and cross-links to determine their similarities and relationships with each other. As people are seemingly interacting with other people they are placing markers that allow for data to relate with other data.

A controversial service at Google named “personalized google” or “personalized search” tracks every search you perform while logged into your account and cross references search results with links you have clicked on in the past.

Professor Michael Wesch, an anthropologist at Kansas State University who is currently launching the Digital Ethnography working group just posted up the second draft of an incredible video outlining the history and purpose of Web 2.0.


It’s a great video not only for the content, but the project it represents. You can interact with the video and add to it at Mojiti. Moderated comments will be incorporated to the final video.

The Web Transition

Web 2.0 has been all about making it easier for people to locate content regardless of its form and making it easier for people to add and interact with data to various web systems. This is the entry point to the upcoming Semantic Web. Where the Web 2.0 has been focused on gathering information and building ties through a mixture of expert systems and non-expert users, the Semantic Web is focused on automating the collection of information and mashing up the data in an easy to understand humanized format, then presenting the information without being asked to do so.

The year 2006 will be remembered as the year of Web 2.0 and entry point to the semantic web where mashups, such as flickr’s geotag maps, and highly specialized semantic based processing, sometimes confused with AI because of its strongly linked ties with Turing machine concepts, along with creative people of all talents will make sense of the decade of data collected by the world wide web as well as information in the future.

The Future: Business Analysis Servers

Imagine a system that knows what information you’ll need for your Monday board meeting. Not because you programmed it to, but because it learned and logically deduced it.

It discovered through your outlook calendar when the meeting was and who would be attending. It matches process in your workflow and recently requested reports with the context of the meeting by a logical process involving keywords in your meeting request. It scans an attendee’s blog to find out that one of your business partners at the meeting has an affinity for blueberry bagels so it sends you an email suggesting you order some for your meeting. It also knows the recent concerns and buzzwords through IMs sent back and forth between you and your attendees and can detect whether the tone towards the topic is friendly or hostile, by which you are alerted on the presupposed tone of the meeting before it even begins. On top of all that, it prepares the charts and documents you are most likely going to want for that tone and sends it to you in a document through email.

Welcome to the semantic web.