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My Geographic 'Center of Gravity' Is Pulling Me to a Nebraska Cemetery

That's the last time I use this weird mapping tool, which determines your "midpoint" based on all the places you've ever lived.

Here's a strange thought experiment: Say you've lived in a decent number of places all over the United States. If you suddenly decamped for the geographic midpoint among these various addresses, where might you be standing right this moment?

No need to whip out the calculator and Vivarin – Geo Midpoint has got you covered. As Google Maps Mania recently noted, the cartographic tool lets you enter all the 'hoods where you've ever resided and then spits out your "personal center of gravity," defined as the geographical average of your lifetime of residences. The site offers this metaphor for understanding the concept:

The geographic midpoint, sometimes called the center of gravity, center of mass or centroid is the average coordinate for a set of points on a spherical earth. If you mark several points on a world globe along with the geographic midpoint, the geographic midpoint does indeed look like it is in the center. Imagine that several weights are placed at various points on a world globe and then the globe is allowed to rotate freely until the heaviest part of the globe is pulled by gravity until it is facing downward. Then the lowest point on the globe would be the geographic midpoint for all of the weighted locations.

Finding one's center of gravity is a nifty enough way of wasting minutes. Geo Midpoint extends the intrigue by allowing you to enter how long you lived at each residence, which weights the results to give different midpoints. By I'll be damned if I use the service again. That's because it is telling me my personal gravitational center – a phrase that resonates with spiritual importance – is inexorably dragging me to somewhere in Nebraska called Beaver, right over a rusty fence and into a dang cemetery.

It's unnerving. This is the average of the seven places I've lived in the past few decades on three coasts of America:

Zoom in:

It looks like Street View hasn't ventured to this desolate moor since the Dark Ages:

Have fun calculating your own "personal center of gravity"!

Maps courtesy of Geo Midpoint and Google Maps

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.