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Posts Tagged ‘navigation

“I see by hearing”*…

 

Echolocation_1

Daniel Kish navigates the world like a bat does—and he does so without ever leaving the ground.

After losing his vision as an infant, Kish taught himself to move around with the help of echolocation. Like bats, Kish uses his mouth to produce a series of short, crisp clicking sounds, and then listens to how those sounds bounce off the surrounding landscape. (Our winged neighbors tend to emit these clicks at frequencies humans can’t hear, but Kish’s clicks are perfectly audible to human ears.) From there, Kish makes a mental map of his environment, considering everything from broad contours—like walls and doors—down to textural details.

Kish now teaches echolocation, mostly to students who are blind. For these students, Kish believes that an echolocation practice can buoy confidence and independence. Kish’s own experience is persuasive—he famously bikes along hilly, car-lined streets—and a growing body of scholarly research has begun to unpack exactly how expert echolocaters do their thing. This research has also backed up the idea that this skill is highly learnable. When researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, asked novice echolocators to use tongue clicks to determine which of the two objects in front of them was larger, the newbies were soon able to do so in a way that the scientists couldn’t attribute to chance.

Whatever your sightedness, there’s something to be said for learning to listen more attentively to sonic scenery. Kish believes that vision has a way of blunting the other senses unless people work to really flex them. Deft echolocators, he says, are able to perceive fine differences—distinguishing, say, between an oleander bush (“a million sharp returns”) and an evergreen (“wisps closely packed together, which sound like a bit like a sponge or a curtain”). They’re discovering sonic wonder wherever they go…

A beginner’s guide to navigating with sound: “Teach Yourself to Echolocate.”

* Darrin Lunde, Hello, Bumblebee Bat

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As we take sound advice, we might send closely-heard birthday greetings to Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett, FRS; he was born on this date in 1886.  A psychologist (and the first professor of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge), he was one of the pioneers of both cognitive psychology and cultural psychology.  His 1932 book Remembering was hugely influential in its demonstration (via the experiments it reports) that memory is not a consultative process that retrieves facts from an immutable record, as most then believed; rather, it is reconstruction, open it a variety of influences that can shape what is recalled.

But relevantly here, he also studied sound and its impact on humans.  His 1934 book The Problem of Noise is a study of “sound that is a nuisance,” and its impact, both physiological and psychological, on hearers.  It was, though probably unintended, Bartlett’s contribution to “clearing the air” for echolation.

Bartlett source

 

Written by LW

October 20, 2018 at 1:01 am

“If you think this Universe is bad, you should see some of the others”*…

 

copernicus

FIRST OF FOUR?: The first Copernican revolution moved the Earth out of the center of the solar system. The second recognized that there are many planets in our galaxy, and the third that there are many galaxies in the observable universe. Proving that our universe is one among many would represent a fourth Copernican revolution.

 

A challenge for 21st-century physics is to answer two questions. First, are there many “big bangs” rather than just one? Second—and this is even more interesting—if there are many, are they all governed by the same physics?

If we’re in a multiverse, it would imply a fourth and grandest Copernican revolution; we’ve had the Copernican revolution itself, then the realization that there are billions of planetary systems in our galaxy; then that there are billions of galaxies in our observable universe. But now that’s not all. The entire panorama that astronomers can observe could be a tiny part of the aftermath of “our” big bang, which is itself just one bang among a perhaps infinite ensemble.

At first sight, the concept of parallel universes might seem too arcane to have any practical impact. But it may (in one of its variants) actually offer the prospect of an entirely new kind of computer: the quantum computer, which can transcend the limits of even the fastest digital processor by, in effect, sharing the computational burden among a near infinity of parallel universes…

Cambridge physicist and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees suspects that our universe is one island in an archipelago: “The Fourth Copernican Revolution.”

* Philip K. Dick

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As we find our place, we might recall that it was on this date in 1884 that 41 delegates from 25 nations, meeting in Washington, DC for the International Meridian Conference, adopted Greenwich as the universal meridian.  They also established that all longitude would be calculated both east and west from this meridian up to 180°.

PrimeMeridianThm source

 

Written by LW

October 13, 2018 at 1:01 am

“When reality and your dreams collide, typically it’s just your alarm clock going off”*…

 

Mary Smith using peas as an alarm clock in London’s East End

The modern worker rolls out of bed, groans, and turns off an alarm clock. But industrial-era British and Irish workers relied on a different method for rising each morning. In the 19th century and well into the 20th, a human alarm clock known as a “knocker-up” (knocker-upper) would trawl the streets and wake paying customers in time for work. Armed with sticks—or, in the case of Mary Smith, a pea shooter—they tapped on windows or blasted them with dried peas.

During the Industrial Age, people toiled at unusual hours in mines or factories. They could have used alarm clocks—adjustable versions had been invented by the mid-19th century. But they were still relatively expensive items, and unreliable ones, at that.

Whether they wielded rods or pea shooters, knocker-ups became familiar presences throughout the United Kingdom. Many of them were older, and woke people up professionally for many years—they often wouldn’t leave people’s houses until they were sure they were awake…

More of this timely tale in “Remembering the ‘Knocker-Ups’ Hired to Wake Workers With Pea Shooters.”

* Crystal Woods

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As we sleep in, we might spare a thought for Regnier Gemma Frisius; he died on this date in 1555.  A physician, mathematician, cartographer, philosopher, and instrument maker, he created important globes, improved the mathematical instruments of his day, and applied mathematics in new ways to surveying and navigation.  Indeed, he was the first to explain how measurement of longitude could be made from elapsed time measurements with a portable timepiece– a technique late perfected by John Harrison (as chronicled in Dava Sobel’s Longitude).

 source

 

Written by LW

May 25, 2018 at 1:01 am

“If something is there, you can only see it with your eyes open, but if it isn’t there, you can see it just as well with your eyes closed. That’s why imaginary things are often easier to see than real ones.”*…

 

In the age of GPS and Google Maps, it is hard to believe that maps can include places that don’t exist. But author Malachy Tallack argues that maps are as much “a cartography of the mind” as they are a way to figure out where we are. In his new book, The Un-Discovered Islands, Tallack takes readers on a journey to imaginary places—mythic islands, mapmakers’ mistakes, mirages, and outright hoaxes. [E.g., explorer Robert Peary discovered a continent that wasn’t there.]…

Some islands, like King Arthur’s Avalon, were pure legend. Others were mistakes or outright hoaxes.  Learn why some islands blur the line between life and death; how others have moved about on the maps; why we’re living in an era of un-discovery; and relatedly, why ancient mapmakers were afraid of blank spaces: “These Imaginary Islands Only Existed on Maps.”

* Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

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As we seek solid ground, we might spare a thought for Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, KCB, FRS, FRGS, MRIA; he died on this date in 1857.  A career naval officer and hydrographer, Beaufort devised, in 1806, a simple scale that coastal observers could use to report the state of the sea to the Admiralty.  Originally designed simply to describe wind effects on a fully rigged man-of-war sailing vessel, it was later extended to include descriptions of effects on land features as well.  Officially adopted in 1838 (and in use to this day), it uses numbers 0 to 12 to designate calm, light air, light breeze, gentle breeze, moderate breeze, fresh breeze, strong breeze, moderate gale, fresh gale, strong gale, whole gale, storm, and hurricane. Zero (calm) is a wind velocity of less than 1 mph (0.6 kph) and 12 (hurricane) represents a velocity of over 75 mph (120kph).

 source

 

Written by LW

December 17, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Location, location, location”*…

 

London tech start-up What3Words has created a new approach to location that could improve lives and economies around the world:

Julius Caesar famously divided Gaul into three parts. [What3Words founder Chris] Sheldrick and his team have gone a little further, dividing the earth’s surface — land, sea and ice caps included — into 57tn 3m-squares, each assigned a unique three-word identifier. What3Words’s entire address is just index.home.raft. Furthermore, a free smartphone app can identify any What3Words location in the world, even if the phone is offline… according to What3Words, 75 per cent of the world’s population has no address; imagine the benefit to an African villager of having Amazon packages delivered as if he lived in a city with a formal postal address. Imagine the benefit to Amazon, too.

Then there are places you would imagine have street addresses, but do not. Japan, for example, is a delivery person’s nightmare: just one complication among many is that homes are numbered according to when they were built. Many Middle East countries’ addresses are famously shambolic. “Dubai expats filling in US tax forms often have to draw a picture of where they live”…

How did Mr Sheldrick, a musician by training, come up with the idea? He was a band manager and had to get trucks of equipment and performers to venues. “It was obvious that postcodes were not fit for purpose. A venue like the Birmingham NEC has one code and many entrances.” He would give 20-digit GPS co-ordinates to drivers for satnavs. When one driver reversed two numbers and ended up more than 50 miles from his Rome destination, Mr Sheldrick decided to take action…

Find your place at “What3Words: new tech that will find any location.”

* real estate agents’ mantra

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As we zero in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that The Alaska Highway (AKA, the Alaska-Canadian Highway, or ALCAN Highway) opened.  Spurred by the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Dec 1941, the highway, deemed a military necessity, was completed at mile 1202, Beaver Creek , when the 97th Engineers met the 18th Engineers.  Originally approximately 1,700 miles long, it now runs 1,387 miles– the difference due to constant reconstruction of the highway, which has rerouted and straightened out numerous sections. Opened to the public in 1948, the road was legendary over many decades for being a rough, challenging drive; the highway is now paved over its entire length.

 source

 

Written by LW

October 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

This way…

 

In the 1920s, America began coast-to-coast Airmail service, but the pioneer pilots had trouble navigating the route, since navigation charts of the day were fugazi and you couldn’t exactly pull over to ask a farmer for directions. And traveling at night, when it would have been most efficient, or in bad weather was impossible. To solve this Congress then funded these gi-normous arrow-shaped Airmail Beacons, some up to 70 feet long, to trace a route across the country.

The arrows were painted bright yellow and each was accompanied by a tower up to 50 feet in height. At the top of each tower was a powerful gas-powered light, and at the bottom of the tower, a shed to hold the gas.

The easily-discernible design made the arrows visible from a distance of ten miles, and each arrow pointed the way towards the next, some three miles distant. That’s according to the Postal Museum; however, this blog claims the towers were 10 miles apart with a 40-mile visibility. It’s possible the former is describing the earlier towers and the latter is describing updated versions.

What’s not in dispute is that the beacon towers are all gone, the steel having been broken up and recycled for America’s World War II effort. But the no-longer-used arrows remain, their paint long since worn off by the elements, the arrows themselves too difficult to make breaking them up worthwhile. And unless Omer Haciomeroglu sends his Concrete Recycling Robots into the American hinterlands, they’ll likely be there forever.

From the always fascinating Core77.

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As we imagine Horace Greeley’s smile, we might recall that it was on this date in 1860 that James Wallace Black, a painter who had turned to photography (his daguerreotype of abolitionist John Brown hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery), took the first aerial photography captured in the U.S.

Black went up with balloonist Samuel Archer King in King’s hot-air balloon, the Queen of the Air, shooting Boston at 1,200 feet (8 plates of glass negative; 10 1/16 x 7 15/16 in).  One good print resulted, which Black entitled “Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It”– the first clear aerial image of a city anywhere.

“Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It”

source

From Black’s obit in “Wilsons Photographic Magazine,” March 1896

source

 

Written by LW

October 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

The pursuit of the hirsute…

From the doers…

…to the done…

… it’s all at The Hair Hall of Fame.

As we let it all go to our heads, we might wish a mystically happy birthday to mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, alchemist/occultist, navigator, and champion of English expansionism John Dee; he was born on this date in 1527.  Widely regarded as the smartest man and/or most powerful magician in the Europe of his time, Dee was an intimate advisor to Queen Elizabeth I and her closest ministers.  But Dee, a student of Copernicus and a friend of Tycho Brahe, was also a serious scholar (his library was the largest in England, perhaps in Europe) and  one of the most learned men of his day– a central figure in the development of modern science… and underneath that cap, he had a killer head of hair.

source

 

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