After Dinner Speech

des Instituts für Geodäsie

Heft 20-2/1985

After Dinner Speech

The Agriculture University, Wageningen / The Netherlands


In: WELSCH, Walter M. / LAPINE, Lewis A. (Hrsg.) [1985]:
International Federation of Surveyors - FIG -
Proceedings Inertial, Doppler and GPS Measurements for National and Engineering Surveys
Joint Meeting of Study Groups 5B and 5C, July 1-3, 1985

Schriftenreihe Universitärer Studiengang Vermessungswesen, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Heft 20-2, Neubiberg, S. 615-616.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was asked to stand on my feet and say a few words at this occasion in respect of the subjects of this symposium and some problems around it, such as the classical geodesy as against the satellite and quasar geodesy and also possibly in respect of educational aspects. I decided to oblige with pleasure, and do this in the form of a fairy tale about the black geodetic box. Story tellers always put some educational and informational in their tales for the young folk.

Once upon a time a physicist and an electronic engineer gave a black box to a geodesist and said to him: "When you put in some invisible electrical current on the one side of this box, something will come out at the other side. You may have it now, may be you can do something with it."

The geodesist started to play in his laboratory with the box, and true enough, current into the one side, numbers came out at the other side on a display window, which he could read, and which changed only little when the box remained stationary. He learned that at other points, other numbers came out, that also in turn would differ a little. As the geodesist was properly educated in classical handling of observations, he did that with these numbers and their differences; he adjusted them. He then wrote an extensive paper and presented it at a symposium, with an extensive description of the box itself. So many buttans on the one side, the height, and the length and width of the box, and its weight. He still did not know what was inside. He prepared his paper thoroughly. He had only 15 minutes to present his study; he had read the abstract at home loudly several times with his watch put in front of him, so that he could comply with the time requirement. Afterwards many colleagues came over to have a look at the box also. One had the idea to describe the box by means of coordinates. He choose a system with the origin in one of the corners, with the axes along the ribbons of the box. The place of all buttans and screws and other features is then easily registered and located.

This then started a chain reaction. The next geodesist thought it preferable to rotate the coordinate system about 0~8, because this reduced the deviation of the standard (whatever that meant) with 20 %. The following learned (classical) geodesist thought it better to move the origin to the gravity point of the box, but as he rotated the box the gravity point tended to move to the lower part, so he left the box in the original position. He made a beautiful presentation at a symposium. He did not comply with the time requirement, but the chairman (also a geodesist familiar with Observations) knew that the standard deviation of setting the clock was~ 2 minutes, of which he handled only the minus sign. He could then generously allot another few minutes.

And then it happened. A young geodesist with youthful zeal and persistency asked to do away with all fringes of coordinate systems and accuracy of COordinates. He wanted to know what was actually inside the box. The answer was very educative: "Well you know, that is a good question and I am glad you asked it, I think, you got a point there, but it is difficult to explain it in a few minutes. You see, I have closely worked tagether with Dr. Joe Blow, he is also a very fine friend of mine. He was here yesterday, but unfortunately he could not be present today, but I would still advise to put your question to him, he is much more conversant with that part of the study, and I am convinced that you would be satisfied with his answer in every respect."

No geodesist would know exactly what happens inside the box to this day unless ... unless in the future the geodesist will pull his part properly in a team of physicists, electronic experts, after having a thorough education in these basic sciences, so that he can talk with them at an equal footing. This is equally valid for his interaction with Earth Scientists.

Ladies and Gentlemen, at least 3 wise geodesists have compared a good speech with the skirt of a beautiful woman. It should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep up interest. I cannot under the present circumstances shorten the skirt at this very moment, but I will not make it longer either on behalf of all here present. I would express my sincere thanks to all those who have organized this symposium with so many interesting papers in such an excellent way. May I ask them to convey our thanks also to the President of this university and to the staff of assistants and secretaries for all their efforts to make this meeting so successful.

P. Richardus

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