Good Coordinates

Feb 2006 | No Comment

The most important ingredient for “Preparedness”

Muneendra Kumar

PhD,Chief Geodesist(Retired)
S National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Unless we are “fully” prepared, we cannot have good and timely
response. And, to be fully prepared with good coordinates is in the
hands of geodesists, surveyors, map or chart makers, and all others,
who generate data. In turn, correct and accurate “Good Coordinates”
and quick and timely advice will strengthen the hands of the country’s
leaders, civil and/or military.If anything is lacking in good
coordinates, “We” would be failing with no room for any excuse(s).
In case of natural disasters, viz., earthquake, tsunami, and hurricanes
or typhoons or cyclones, we may still be in need of more research to provide
“Best Coordinates”, but that should not be taken as an excuse for lack of
preparedness. The “present” good coordinates (which we already have)
are still better than no coordinates and thus to be caught unprepared.
In case of Geo-Spatial Information(GSI), we have no excuse for nopreparedness.
Here, we have all the researches, techniques, and technologies to be ready and fully
prepared. We have the necessary capabilities to produce correct and
accurate geodetic positions, maps, and charts. But, if we search why
we are not getting optimum benefits from the “Good Coordinates”,
which are already there or can be easily generated, we will fi nd
ourselves denying them. Here are a few reasons, which impact
adversely on our preparedness and thereof on our response(s):
1. Taking no advantage from or ignoring the new research,
2. Holding on to old, outdated, and obsolete algorithms and products,
3. Not correcting and improving geodetic defi nitions of
critically important products, even when pointed, clarified,and duly explained,
4. Not taking immediate action(s) to correct the LARGE mistakes and/or blunders,
5. Allowing tampering of database by unauthorized persons, where nobody knows who did
that and when was it done,
6. Continuing to use “bad” and/ or outdated software,
7. Getting software written or existing ones, which require “special” knowledge or expertise,
updated by “outsiders” who do not even have basic understanding,
8. Designing and/or managing special scientifi c projects by those, who
believe in the old routines and follow them with no innovation,
9. Assigning highly scientific projects to those who do not have the
necessary and suffi cient theoretical knowledge (Note: They also do
not make any effort to “consult”). Now, I will list a few specifi c
examples, which show how we are “hurting” our “Good Coordinates”:
1. Aeronautical charts produced lacking the datum and ellipsoid
information and have TWO grids in one color. Surprisingly,
one or both the grids might be wrong. These non-usable
charts, without being corrected,are openly available for use.
2. A blunder of 1 km, even when correction had been generated,
was still there in the main database after 2 years.
3. In 1982, during the development of a 2 million dollar instrument,
which required a gravitation model, the formula used was taken
from a book entitled “Electricity and Magnetism”, 1919.
4. There are no nuclear physics or cardiology book(s) for a common
person. But, there is one entitled “Geodesy for Laymen”.
5. In a hardbound “prestigious” volume, the geoid is defi ned
as a “surface on which the gravity is constant”.
6. To enter government jobs, a candidate, who has not studied
even one course of geodesy, can get hired as a GEODESIST,
keep getting promoted, and then start making decisions on highly
complex geodetic issue(s).
7. It is then not surprising that one can find:
(1) standard deviation computed with “n = 1”,
(2) “reobservation” made 3-5 meters from an already surveyed station,
and (3) ZEROS added or deleted “freely” from constants or computed
results, and surveyed positions.
8. Users are provided and/or algorithms are developed with
zero longitude and “eastings and northings” coordinates at the Poles.
9. During 1992, in an international marine symposium, an Indonesian
author stated in the morning session that his country has
13,000 islands. Later in the afternoon, another one raised
the number by 35% to 17,000. There were a few lively questions
and remarks, but it seems that such a critical issue, which can
extend or decrease a country’s boundary, is still not “defi ned”.
10. In case of New Orleans, there was a mix up in supply of
leveling data for construction of levees for fl ood control.
Here, a cautionary note is that the problems are deeply embedded in our
products and production procedures. Strangely enough, there is also very
stiff resistance to accept that the old procedures and specifi cations
have outlived their time and then agree for change and improvement.
Entering the 21st century, “patch up” updates, revisions, and/or routine
solutions will only postpone our having the correct and accurate “Good
Coordinates”. The only “remedy” is complete and thorough update(s)
using latest research, techniques, and technologies. Let us remember that
for smart defense, we need today’s “Smart Coordinates”, which cannot be
generated from old and outdated GSI.During my entire professional
life as surveyor, mapmaker, and geodesists in the pursuit of providing
good coordinates, I have witnessed the above reasons and examples,
which are prevalent in almost all the countries around the world. If we keep
using “Outdated Coordinates”, how can we be prepared to provide a good
response, as and when need arises. We need “Good Coordinates”
to be ready and prepared for a good and timely response.
There is no shortcut to this!

My Coordinates
His Coordinates
Mark your calendar

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