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15:06 Feb 5, 2012
This question was closed without grading. Reason: Answer found elsewhere
French to English translations [PRO] Science - Geology / definition of the geoid
French term or phrase:à une altitude près
I'm not sure I understand this expression as used here:
Le géoïde est une surface équipotentielle du champ de pesanteur coïncidant au mieux avec le niveau moyen des océans et qui se prolonge sous les continents.
Il est défini **à une altitude près**.
Pour la France, il est calé sur un niveau zéro scellé dans le port de Marseille.
Le géoïde est une surface diforme (sic), à laquelle on ne saurait appliquer des relations mathématiques.
Imagine you're the poor sod who has to define the geoid (not geode!). What reference are you going to choose? MSL is the obvious one, but the wretched thing keeps changing, so I think it may be important to include the idea that it's rather approximate...
Thanks, Chris - yes, I read the wiki entry (and others). I think your explanation of "près" is appropriate - yet I still can't get my head round this. Obviously "to within an altitude", (cf. e.g. "to within a metre") is nonsense. Maybe "for a certain altitude"?
describes the geoid rather well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoid.
But to elaborate, the geoid of a perfectly homogeneous sphere is also a sphere, and would be defined on the surface of said sphere. However, Earth is internally "lumpy", containing so-called "masscons" (mass concentrations) and g also varies as 1/r^2 from the centre of the geoid, so you need a reference radius: in this case, the time averaged (10 yrs, I think) mean sea level at a specific point in Marseilles. The "près" is because sea level changes, not only by the second, but also by the year, decade and century.
Yes, that was the thought (the only thought) that came into my head. But I don't feel it.
I should say that there are a number of sentences within the long list of definitions I'm translating that are less than felicitously expressed, at least to this Englishman!