Monthly Archives: October 2014

Geometry Hill

abandoned prison in the Mojave Desert

Geometry Hill

This hilltop is in an abandoned prison complex in the heart of the Mojave Desert. The first time I saw this place, I was struck by the collection of unusually shaped buildings on the hill.  The sphere is a radome (RAdar DOME) once operated by the Air Force, and now an active FAA tracking station.  The other buildings are abandoned relics of the prison, and their purposes are not obvious. Ordinarily, I let these things go with no more thought than “Hey! Good photo op.”  But this time, I was surprised to find myself trying to learn, not about the use of the buildings, but about their shapes.  If it was their geometry that attracted me, then it was their geometry that I would explore. There I was, researching, Googling, Wikipedia-ing, to learn the names of their shapes. I had the cube and the sphere nailed, but had no idea about the others.

Now, I’ve learned that the buildings in the foreground on the hill are (from left to right) rectangular, trapezoidial, and decagonal prisms.  Barely visible in the background, the water tank is a circular cylinder.  And the quonset hut to the left of me in the foreground is a horizontal cylindrical segment.  I learned more in 10 minutes of research for this picture than I did in all of 9th grade geometry.

So, do I appreciate the view more as a result of my research?  No, I don’t think so. It was fun in a useless trivia kind of way. It was a moment of intellectual curiosity sated. But now, I think I’d rather just sit back while the exposure runs and savor the warm Mojave night, listening to the dull hum of the radome, wondering about the inmates who spent time here, and watching the stars spin as the world turns.

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