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The Science and Math Behind Pokémon GO

So I was going to bring you something completely different this week. It was going to be a video filled with numbers and calculations and a surprisingly out-of-character monologue. But between the time I filmed that episode and when it would air, the now global phenomenon known as Pokémon GO happened.

In my latest Because Science, I’m taking a quick left turn to cover a little bit of the science that makes Pokémon GO work and the math that can help you catch Pokémon**. First and foremost, the game finds you through the wonders of GPS—our global positioning system. The constellation of 32 satellites determines your position on this blue marble with more complicated math than you’d expect.

Zooming in a bit, the geometry of circles can help you catch the Pokémon you see on your Poké radar, believe it or Poké not. Imagine that your target Pokémon is at the center of a circle. How do you get there? Walk until you can mark off two points on that circle (when you go from three to two paws, or two paws to one paw). Now you have a segment. If you mentally draw a 90-degree line at the midpoint of that segment, geometrically, the Pokémon would have to be on that line! You’re mine, Pidgey #0987!

**DISCLAIMER: There is currently a radar glitch for some players where the number of paws never decreases from three. If that is the case for you, just keep these tips for future use!


Check out my last video on what would happen if Thor threw his hammer at the Juggernaut, subscribe to this playlist to stay current with the show, buy a Because Science shirt (you know why), and follow me on Twitter to give me a suggestion for the next episode!

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