The meaning of trajectory
Some of the earliest work on trajectories was conducted by Galileo. As Encyclopaedia Britannica notes:
‘his formulation of (circular) inertia, the law of falling bodies, and parabolic trajectories marked the beginning of a fundamental change in the study of motion.’
Indeed, Galileo's theoretical and experimental work on the motions of bodies, along with the largely independent work of Kepler and Descartes was a precursor of the classical mechanics developed by Sir Isaac Newton. And his contribution to science prompted Stephen Hawking to suggest that he probably bears more of the responsibility for the birth of modern science than anybody else, and for Albert Einstein to call him the father of modern science.
A bouncing ball captured with a stroboscopic flash at 25 images per second. Note that the ball becomes significantly non-spherical after each bounce, especially after the first. That, along with spin and air-resistance causes the curve swept out to deviate slightly from the expected perfect parabola.
Image source: Wikipedia.
One of Galileo’s interests was in the trajectories of bullets and other projectiles and so this is one usage of the term. But it is also used to describe the motion of the planets and gravitational objects (where Isaac Newton took his ideas forward) and any other body that involves movement. A recent example we have come across is Professor Alan Nathan’s work on the movement of a baseball. The delivery speed and direction are clearly important in determining the trajectory but so too are local conditions – for example, the weather, whether the ball park has a covered roof and even the height above sea level (Denver, with its dramatic views of the Rocky Mountains, and at an elevation of 5,200 feet is the highest ballpark in the States with the thinnest air).
But for many years now, the term has had a more metaphorical meaning. Thus it is commonly used to refer to people’s career paths or the past performance and potential future of a company or even a country. Hence, these are all quotes from recent issues of the Financial Times:
A young artist who follows a similar trajectory to Robespierre
In each individual country structured products have different rationales and have developed along a slightly different trajectory as a result of history and the way money is managed locally
It has provided us with a trajectory to put clear water between us and the Group A firms and be seen as a real competitor to the Big Four
Economic growth in Brazil has often been likened to the flight of a chicken – short, noisy, and ending with an ungainly fall to earth. ........ Now, Brazil’s trajectory is altogether more elegant
Here at Trajectory we strive not only to be scientific, applied, leading-edge and innovative but also to understand the softer issues and the potential for different outcomes and different directions across a range of areas
Hence – and much like baseball example where a range of factors (some in the individual’s control, some not) influence potential outcomes - our aim is to help you (as a business unit, organisation or geographical area) understand the likely paths you could take. What are the external factors most likely to affect you? What influence can you make on your future prospects? How fast should you deliver your initiatives to change things and in what direction should you aim?
Whatever your view of the name itself we hope you will find our analysis challenging, exhilarating and dynamic.