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Man's curiosity about globe is contagious


 Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 11/10/2001

ALEX JARRETT has a lot in common with many people around the world, as he has learned. I include myself among them.

Jarrett is a 26-year-old computer programmer who lives in Northampton, Mass.

What he shares with thousands
--perhaps millions--of other people is a touch of curiosity about the world and a love of wandering to find new places.

What sets him apart from the rest of us is that he conceived something quite exciting a few years back--something the rest of us can do to satisfy the urge to go out into woods and field, mountain and swamp and make a small contribution to learning more about the world we live in.

Alex Jarrett founded The Degree Confluence Project. There is nothing quite like it. Through the wonders of the Internet and cheap little global positioning system receivers, Jarrett has made it possible for ordinary duffs like me to do all of the above and feel like mighty adventurers while doing it. Oh yes, and a GPS gizmo isn't absolutely essential. An accurate and detailed map will do, might even be more challenging.

Here's how it works: The Earth is covered by imaginary lines running horizontally and vertically that enable us to pinpoint locations quite accurately. The 180 horizontal lines are called latitude; the 360 vertical lines are called longitude. The spots where those lines intersect can be called several things. Jarrett called them degree confluences.

So much for kindergarten
geography, but I had to get that much out of the way.

In 1995, Jarrett, who certainly qualifies as a curious guy, bought a handheld GPS receiver.

He had always liked to roam around the woods and hills. Now he began taking his GPS along
on walks.

"I lived about 10 miles from 43 degrees north and 72 degrees west, so I thought to myself, 'What would be out there?'"

He wondered what the place would look like where those two lines on the map actually converge on the ground.

"It turned out to be just a spot in the woods," he said, "but the journey of getting there and seeing all the zeroes on the GPS was worth it."


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