From Frank: I'm not sure if this is a proper question to ask so if I have misdirected my question I apologize and no response is expected. I am trying to figure out a way to measure vapor trails from my back yard in Phoenix Arizona. If I used a compass and spread each point of the compass to the start and finish of the vapor trail I would have the angle of an isosceles triangle. The other two angles would be identical. The height of from the inverted base of the triangle to my standing spot on the ground would be about 35,000 feet. I'm thinking that there should be a way to figure out the length of the inverted base (vapor trail) but I'm devoid of mathematical skills and can't seem to figure out how to do this. Is it possible to figure out the length of a vapor trail using this method or do you have an easier way to accomplish the task?
Any help you could offer would be most appreciated.
From Yossi: I am preparing a 45 minutes class for K-12 students. The problem is to show that algebraic equivalent expressions are not always numerically equivalent. In particular I would like to show one of these dangers: cancellation that occurs during the subtraction of nearly equal quantities. Do you have a good reference I could use to prepare my class. In particular to be able to show some examples and how one can avoid this type of error. I also would like to show examples with practical use. I tried to look up in the web but did not find anyhting appropriate. Answered by Chris Fisher.