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How Far Can You See?

Problem: Fire towers are built so firefighters in forested regions can scan large areas for potential trouble. Upper-story and penthouse apartments rent for the highest prices because of the terrific views. Assuming the atmosphere is clear, and there are no hills or mountains obstructing the view, how far could you see to the horizon from the top of a 100 meter fire tower? From the top of a 55 story skyscraper, where each floor is 3 meters high? From the top of the tallest building in the world (the Petronis Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1,467 ft. high)? From an airplane flying at 35,000 feet? From the Space Shuttle flying at 300 km?


Ralph Kahn

Date Accepted: 1997-02-28 Grade Group: High School (9-12) Benchmarks: M8.4.2 M8.4.28 Keywords: reconnaissance horizon fire tower skyscraper airplane space shuttle trigonometry cosine Microsoft Word: 03_25_96_1.docx PDF Document: 03_25_96_1.pdf