Monday, June 3, 2013

The Check Effect in Toronto


One of the most erroneous pieces of information I've ever heard in Toronto is on how to find your sense of direction.  

The common phrase is "Look for the CN Tower - That's alway south". The problem with this advice is you can't always see the CN Tower, and even if you can, it's not necessarily south.  Another piece of advice is to look for the sun - which is in the south at around noon and in the west around sunset.  This is great assuming it's not a cloudy day, or 11pm at night. 

There is, however, one hint that show up time and time again.  A very large proportion of Toronto's trees exhibit the "check effect".  That is, they are affected by the sun and grow in a way that allows you to determine where south is.  Whilst it's very hard to the untrained eye to spot this, if you're used to looking for it, you can take a quick consensus of your surroundings and successfully determine your directions.

What you're looking for is trees that are either a) heavier on one side, or b) grow up on one side and out on the other (hence the check effect name - named after the check mark shape).

Example One:  Here's Bloor street by the viaduct.



And now here's the same photo with the check effect annotated.  The arrow is pointing south.




Example Two:  Here's Woodbine park near Queen and Kingston road, looking west towards the CN Tower (hidden behind the trees).



And now here's the same photo with the check effect annotated.  The arrow is pointing south.



Keep looking for this around Toronto and eventually you'll get very good at getting your bearings in cloud, night or without the CN Tower to guide you.