Sunday, 28 December 2014

spatial fossils

The ever brilliant BLDGBlog revisits the field-trip they got to take two summers ago to the secretive compound that manages the constellation of satellites that form the global positioning system for military and civilian applications.

Surely being treated to such a tour could inspire many tangential musings on place and time and the technological triangulation behind translating this vast array with many moving parts into something reliable and useful. The visitors, however, choose not to reflect on the navigation aspect but rather how GPS coordinates are being used more and more in large-scale architectural projects and how the errors in mapping—precision that’s only off by millimetres but still nonetheless present and preserved—are being set in stone, fossilised as it were in big building programmes. Such cosmological footprints are found in the unburied strata of the Earth and, as in the reflection, evidence of solar flares and sunspots in the growth rings of trees. The philosophy is not lost on the team that runs GPS neither, realising that this fifty-thousand kilometre wide array could also be used a massive detection field for the aberrations of space-time due to encounters with gravitational waves or dark matter. Every sub-system on Earth that accesses and makes decisions based off of this satellite telemetry is a part of this experiment and exotic, cosmic discontinuities may be leaving subtle footfalls everywhere.