Why Stuff Works

Because who cares how?

Q: Why does GPS work?

A: Well it all started in the 60s, right when they were sending up monkeys and dogs into space. This included the famous Russian space dog “Laika” and the spider monkey “Baker” who rode a Jupiter missile into space in 1959. With these more common animals, they hoped to extrapolate what effects outer space would have on humans. Common knowledge has it that the first human in space was Yugi Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. On the contrary, the first human in space was a man named Gary Schirra, who took off just 24 hours prior to Gagarin on a secret missile launch from Area 51 in the Sonoran desert. This was a mission on behalf of the US to investigate certain unexplained radio frequencies coming from a satellite launched during Project Vanguard in 1951.

Gary Schirra decided on his own, late one night, to jump in a highly experimental space craft and begin a launch sequence. His ascent into orbit resulted in a spectacular fireball and several earth shattering booms from the rocket going in and out of the speed of sound. Fortunately, thanks to a good bit of luck, Gary made it into space. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough fuel to return, and so he has since that day remained in orbit around the earth. Gary is a very enterprising soul, so after some period of thought he figured out a way to grow vegetables from the seed packets he happened to have in his pocket at the time of lift-off. Using the sunlight and his own ingenuity, he was able to grow a relatively large vegetable garden

Gary is also a very intelligent person. And so he got bored. Because his radio is in working order, he has been able to communicate with the current generation of scientists at Area 51, but because a rescue effort would be costly and would reveal the existence of Area 51, Gary has been informed that he will have to remain in space indefinitely as a punishment for his rebellious action. To be sure, this is not a fair arrangement, so Gary recently began to develop GPS, short for Gary’s Peepers. Through this technology, Gary can spy on the location of all sorts of cars and boats and handheld devices in the US. Most consumers feel safe with their GPS purchases with the idea that most devices are too small to house a tracking device. Unbeknownst to the general public, through an agreement with the US Government, Gary has perpetuated small tracking chips installed deep in the heart of GPS circuitry to rebound information back to him in outer space. By coordinating the satellites under control of his buddies at Area 51 and in consultation with major navigational engineering companies (who benefit by determining where the devices are being used for consumer research purposes), Gary can keep tabs on all sorts of folks. He particularly likes to watch geocaching, where he can see adventurers roaming into dangerous areas and near treacherous ravines.

This arrangement benefits both parties. Consumers are able to find directions and unmarked roads in areas as remote as Sumatra and Sumter, SC. And Gary gets to watch them wander about the earth, as he ultimately is unable to do. He tires of the taste of tomatoes and green peppers, which were the only seeds he had, and waste disposal gets awfully tricky sometimes with a rusty hatch on the latrine, so peeping on the travels of common folk is the only entertainment available to him.

That’s why GPS works.

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