Thank you for the effort put forth to get me that astounding answer so quickly!
It never occured to me that it was a common question, nor did I realize that I could just open a map. Silly me thought that there would be a lot more math involved with finding the center for a Commonwealth (with an odd shape) such as Virginia.
You sir, have fought ignorance above and beyond the duty of the average doper! Take a well deserved break, and pat yourself on the back.
I’ll give you a specific example of the usefulness of such a thing. I recently wrote of piece of software that directs requests from people all over the world to the nearest datacenter that our software is running on. This way Oregon users hit our California servers, German users hit our UK servers, etc. We make the decision based on the IP address of the user. We license a commercial database that gives us (at least, for the vast majority of IPs) an accurate indication of what country the user is in, or in the case of the US and Canada, what state/province they are in.
We already know the precise geographic coordinates of our handful of servers around the globe, and we use a short (by computer standards) list of the geographic centers of every country and US/Canadian states/provinces. We construct and cache as we go a table that correlates these into approximate Great Circle distances, which is used to look up the server the user should be directed to.
Even if the commercial database provider gave us exact locations down to the city (and they can, for some countries), we don’t want it, as the state/country approximation is “good enough”, and it keeps the size of the lookup table reasonable small.
Hawaii has a geographical center, just like any other place.
Imagine you have cardboard cutouts of the islands that are somehow kept the correct distance apart without adding weight. Where would you put a pin to balance them? It doesn’t even have to be on land. Probably somewhere around NW part of the Big Island.
Well, sure, in theory I could probably have used just about any coordinates roughly within each state/country, but then I’d have to “eyeball” latitude and longitude numbers for 200+ countries, plus the US states and Canadian provinces. It’s a lot easier if there’s already a published list, and if you’re going to publish a list, you might as well do the calculation for the geographic center. I think I ended up sourcing the CIA World Fact Book for the countries, and an html list published on some random website for the US states (I’m sure they in turn found it at some more definitive place, but that’s what I stumbled on first).
I don’t care either. My question is: Why was this such a pressing issue that someone went to the trouble of figuring out the lay of the land, then doing (what I assume is) a lot of math? For that matter, how do you figure out where the geographical center is located?
(Keep in mind Timewinder, that I am too uneducated to be able to open a map. I tried yesterday, but apparently I picked up some book about food by a perky female chef. Gotta learn to read someday, I suppose.)