Praying towards Mecca
( kudos to Chris and Donal for giving me the idea :) )
One of the Muslim rules about praying is that, wherever possible, one should pray towards Mecca. Consciously praying any other direction presumably makes the prayers count less.
In terms of vectors, this means that one can think of one’s prayer as being divided up into two parts, one towards Mecca and one perpendicular.
What should be done to orient one’s self properly towards mecca involves
somewhat more extreme posturing than the normal horizontal orientation
most people take – one must also orientate one’s self vertically to face
Mecca (i.e. one must take into account the curvature of the earth).
However, taking into account the curvature of the earth, it is clear that in America one’s prayer isn’t going towards Mecca by any means. However, thanks to physical reasoning, all is not lost.
You see, treating the prayer as a vector (lets call it P, a certain amount of it ALWAYS goes towards Mecca so long as the prayer makes an angle less than 90 degrees with the direction that you should be praying.
The first, and most obvious solution is to pray harder to make the component of the prayer in the direction towards Mecca large enough so as to be satisfactory.
The second solution is to pray upon a wedge that will point you directly towards Mecca:
However prayer using the “prayer wedge” can be just as difficult as one has to fight off the force of gravity pulling you off the wedge. However, for locations
relatively close to Mecca, this is easy (for longer distances this effect is no longer negligable, and the use of a light harness may become desirable and indeed
necessary to ensure a safe session; elsewise all your prayers might well end up being those asking Him to keep you secure on your Prayer Wedge!).
It came to my mind that maybe I was a bit, shall we say, excited, about my theory and did not take the traditional Muslim tradition as seriously as perhaps I
should; because taking it that one merely has to pray tangential to the earth leads me to believe that perhaps instead of moving along *straight lines* the prayer
vectors have some mass and travel instead along geodesics around the earth. This minimization of work in getting to Mecca would be miraculous indeed, and may
even lead to some solid estimates of the properties of prayer (mass, velocity, etc.).
Please, please note that this article does not stem from my fundamental distaste
for organised religion, but rather from a wholly respectable and respectful sense of