Latitudes & Longitudes In TV & Movies Ain’t That Accurate

by on October 24, 2010

in Entertainment

Josh Duhamel in

The other day I was watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for the umpteenth time on HBO On Demand. In one scene, Josh Duhamel receives a set of coordinates to take the body of Optimus Prime. But the coordinates, in Lat & Lon, only had two decimals after the primary number. But did you know that a Latitude and Longitude coordinate is actually a pretty big dimension?

Lats and Lons make up a grid on the planet and are used to identify where one is. But you knew that. (A side note if detail: The Dimensions of a Lat & Lon grid square are different at different locations, depending how far away from the equator you are. It’s a curvature of the Earth thing.)

But generally speaking, for this example at the 37th degree Latitude, the length of a Latitude is 364,605 feet and the length of a Longitude is 258,683 feet. With a mile being 5,280 feet long, that means that a degree of latitude is 69 miles long and a degree of Longitude is 55 miles long.

So when our heroes in the movie called in a coordinate that is only a 2 decimal location, I was like, “Hey!, that’s not a great set of coordinates!”

Calling in a “drop” with the following coordinates: Lat 37.47 & Lon of 122.26, we’re looking at roughly a patch of Earth that could be 14 by 12 miles wide. As you can see, that is not a very accurate vector to be calling in a precision hit. We can presume the dead center of this coordinate, but to be honest, accuracy in critical military maneuvers requires a seriously more accurate system.

If you have to call in an accurate hit, it has to be many more decimal places long.

[ National Atlas ]

That is today’s generic “scientifical” observation from Cinema Static column on Brusimm.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Simmons September 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Captain America 2, near the beginning where they first show the hq of SHIELD…

Bruce Simmons September 12, 2014 at 7:37 am

Yep, that is big time vague.
Unfortunately I don’t have anything else off the top of my head. And I don’t recall too many shows or movies that have done that.
My only guess or suggestion for this task you’re thinking of Christopher is maybe to discover city names or locations in movies and derive lats and lons from that input, but no… nothing about actual numbers used in movies. Sorry. -Bruce

Christopher Shepherd September 12, 2014 at 12:34 am

i’m a sixth grade social studies teacher and i’m sending my students on a lat/long through the movies scavenger hunt. can you think of any other movies where the characters receive or give a coordinate? (even if it’s not very precise)?

in Superman Returns, the ship captain announces to Lex Luthor that they are approaching their coordinates: 40 N, 73 W. talk about being vague! still, its fun for the kids to practice saving Lois, figuring out where Optimus Prime’s body will be taken.

please let me know if you can think of any others!

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