Chapter 1. Riddles for the Information Age

What Do You Get When You Cross a Computer with an Airplane?

In December 1995, American Airlines Flight 965 departed from Miami on a regularly scheduled trip to Cali, Columbia. On the landing approach, the pilot of the 757 needed to select the next radio-navigation fix, named “ROZO.” He entered an “R” into his navigation computer. The computer returned a list of nearby navigation fixes starting with “R,” and the pilot selected the first of these, whose latitude and longitude appeared to be correct. Unfortunately, instead of “ROZO,” the pilot selected “ROMEO,” 132 miles to the northeast. The jet was southbound, descending into a valley that runs north–south, and any lateral deviation was dangerous. Following ...

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