"The State of The World" Number 26
Complete Index Of All Issues
How To Measure The Height Of A Cloud - With Your Car
Some of the greatest scientific discoveries were made before the powerful computing technology of today came into existence. Prior to that time, the only tools that people had were their observational senses and their intelligence. It was that "crude science" that made "modern science" possible. Humans can be very good at logic alone.
Modern technology enables humans to determine the height of clouds with great accuracy (keeping in mind that clouds are constantly moving and changing in size and shape). But can anyone measure the approximate height of a cloud with, say, just their car? Or even on foot? Yes.
As everyone knows, a square has 4 equal-length sides. Each of the corners are 90 degrees. A line drawn from any corner to another is 45 degrees.
Imagine yourself in the bottom-left corner of a square, in your car, with the road before you being the bottom side of the square. If there are clouds in the sky in front of you, choose one that is 45 degrees up from the horizon i.e. in the top-right corner of the square (be careful, don't distract from your driving safety).
Now, noting your odometer reading as you start, drive in the direction of the cloud until it is directly overhead (continue to be careful, don't distract from your driving safety). Note your odometer reading when the cloud is overhead (keeping in mind that clouds are constantly moving and changing in size and shape).
The distance that you drove is the height of the bottom of the cloud.
Depending on their type, clouds range in height from 2,000 meters / 6,500 feet to 6,000 meters / 20,000 feet i.e. 2 to 6 kilometers / 1 1/4 to 3 3/4 miles.