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Post details Post   (Contract pics)
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Colin Murphy
2008-12-02 10:39:12
"Schiehallion" from Colin Murphy Contract pics
Picture: Schiehallion (Contract pics)

Contour lines, physics byproduct
Back in the distant year of 1981, a flatmate of mine in Edinburgh, suggested that we kill a summer’s Sunday by ‘climbing a mountain’. With nothing else to do, we set off for God-knows-where in his banger of a car and I duly trudged along in agonised silence behind him, ill-equipped and totally unfit as we headed up Schiehallion (1083m in Perth & Kinross) – my first ever hillwalking experience. By co-incidence I recently came across the name Schiehallion when reading Bill Bryson’s ‘A short history of everything’. In 1774, the mountain had been selected by a physicist Nevil Maskelyne as an ideal one to conduct an experiment to determine the universal gravitional constant – if you hang a plumb line near a mountain the gravitational force will pull the line at a tiny but measurable angle towards its mass. All you need to do is measure the mass of the mountain and bob’s your uncle, the gravitational constant! Maskelyne and a mathematician called Hutton spent months taking countless measurements of Schiehallion to determine its precise shape. But the jumble of numbers was so confusing they could make little use of them – until Hutton realised that his job would be made easier if he joined the points of equal height. When he did, he realised that he’d accidentally discovered a way of accurately mapping the landscape – contour lines. Within a few years the system was adopted as a standard among cartographers the world over and it has certainly stopped me from walking over a few cliffs over the years. Incidentally their original gravitational constant experiment was a success and was actually repeated by a group of scientists in 2005, with pretty much the same results!
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Summit Comment
Croghan Kinsella: Fine views and a gilded history
Bunsen7 2 days ago.
Decided it couldn't do any harm to get on the M11 down past Arklow and make the journey to Croghan Kinsella. Coillte and the ESB have created a 35 MW wind-farm on the eastern flanks of the mountai...

  
Track
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Bunsen7 2 days ago.
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Summit Comment
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pearnett 2 days ago.
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Track
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march-fixer 5 days ago.
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Summit Comment
Chimney Rock Mountain: Great reward for little effort!
PinkyFloyd a week ago.
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Track
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Aidy a week ago.
A leisurely walk in one of the most amazing areas in Ireland, or anywhere for that matter. The route took me to the to... walk, Len: 7.9km, Climb: 316m, Area: Mullagh More, West Clare (Ireland) Mulla

Summit Comment
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PinkyFloyd a week ago.
I know that people scramble up the Devil's Coachroad though the mechanics of actually getting up the top part elude me. Braver men than I! Standing on top of Beg, looking down the massive gulley i...

  
Track
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Summit Comment
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PinkyFloyd a week ago.
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Track
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Bunsen7 a week ago.
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Summit Comment
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ShaunDunne a week ago.
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Track
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David-Guenot a week ago.
A fantastic, hard-won summit, a relentless, never-ending haul up followed by some easy but somewhat exposed scrambling o walk, Len: 14.7km, Climb: 1684m, Area: France, Occitanie ()


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