Fun and Games: December 3

Joke of the Week: Math Words
Surveying Astronomy: The Earth’s Orbit and the Ecliptic
Cool Link of the Week: Mosaic of Antarctica

Joke of the Week: Math Words

Learn about the history of these two math-related words from


The horizontal angle to an object, measured clockwise from a fixed reference point, usually north or south.

[From French azimut, from Latin azimut, from Arabic al-sumut, from al (the) + samt (way).]

Used in a sentence:
"The company's unique medium-gain antenna finds and tracks the satellite in azimuth, electronically." --Dan Fales; Sky high; Motor Boating & Sailing; Feb 1997.


A finite sequence of well-defined steps for solving a problem.

[After al Khwarizmi (the [man] of Khwarizm), a nickname of the 9th century Persian astronomer and mathematician Abu Jafar Muhammand ibn Musa, who authored many texts on arithmetic and algebra. He worked in Baghdad and his nickname alludes to his place of origin Khwarizm (Khiva), in present-day Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.]

Used in a sentence:
"If you teach a computer to write a piece of music by feeding it an algorithm, have you composed the resulting piece or has the computer?" --Alexander Gelfand; The Sounds of Science; The Walrus (Toronto, Canada); Jun 2007.

Problem: Surveying Astronomy: The Earth's Orbit and the Ecliptic

The orbit of the earth around the sun follows a path that quite closely resembles the shape of what geometric figure defined in Kepler’s laws of planetary motion?

(A) A cycloid
(B) A hyperbolic paraboloid
(C) A cardioid
(D) An ellipse

Come back next week for the solution!

This is problem 28(4-15) from the new second edition of 1001 Solved Surveying Problems by Jan Van Sickle. Reprinted with permission from 1001 Solved Surveying Problems by Jan Van Sickle (1997, 728 pp., Professional Publications Inc.). For details on this and other FLS exam-prep books, call 800/426-1178 or visit .

> Click here for last week's question and solution

Cool Link of the Week: Mosaic of Antarctica

Staff from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the University of New Hampshire have assembled a digital image map and a snow-grain-size image of the Antarctic continent and surrounding islands. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Mosaic of Antarctica (MOA) image map is a composite of 260 swaths comprised of both Terra and Aqua MODIS images acquired between 20 November 2003 and 29 February 2004.

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