The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. According to Ty Webb, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line…in the opposite direction.” I don’t personally know what Ty was getting at, but it’s always nice to infuse a bit of humor when discussing topics as dense as math, physics, and the laws of the universe.

The idea of a straight line as the shortest distance between two points—as well as the invention of the hydrometer, odometer, and the first to accurately approximate the value of Pi—is attributed to third-century Greek mathematician and physicist Archimedes, who some would say is the father of modern calculus. According to learnodo-newtonic.com, “One of the most famous contributions of Archimedes is the Archimedes’ principle. It is said to have been found by him when he was tasked to determine the purity of the gold crown of King Hiero II of Syracuse. The Archimedes’ principle states that a body totally or partially immersed in a fluid is subject to an upward force (buoyant force) that is equal in magnitude to the weight of fluid it displaces. Thus, the net upward force on the object is the difference between the buoyant force and its weight. If this net force is positive, the object rises; if negative, the object sinks.”

Legend has it the aha moment for his discovery came while he was taking a bath. Today, Archimedes’ principle is a law of physics that governs fluid dynamics and is used in the design of ships and submarines.

To return to the straight line, we can simply look to its occurrences in nature. If you were to stand up, extend your arm, and release something from your hand, you would notice the object would fall straight to the floor, in a straight line. Same would hold true if you were to drop that same object from the top of a building. The idea can be complicated by other natural laws, such as gravity and other forces that may act upon the object, but the straight line is what we see and experience.

Think of it this way: A great many of us drive to work. The idea of driving from our home to our office in a straight line is complicated by the availability of roads as well as congestion on those roads from other drivers trying to get to work. But imagine you could fly, like Superman. What route would you take to make your commute easiest and quickest? That’s right, a straight line. If you are saying “Well, then why don’t I just teleport to work?” I’d say, “Stop it! You’re being ridiculous.”

What is not ridiculous is the straight line we have created from you to the information you need to get the job done. Check out “Critical Challenges faced by Quality Departments and Recommended Actions” and “How the Cloud is Transforming Document Management in Modern Manufacturing,” all in this month’s Quality.