Entries tagged "gps"

Nobel Prize to 'Human GPS' Scientists


This week three scientists were recognised for their work on understanding the human brain's 'internal GPS system', when they were awarded a Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. You don't get Nobel Prizes for work that is too simple, but in the simplest terms, these scientists (Prof. John O' Keefe and husband and wife team, Edvard and May-Britt Moser) proved that the brain has cells (nerve cells in the entorhinal complex, since you ask) that are activated when rats, humans and doubtless many other species, are in certain locations.…

Dead Reckoning and Path Integration (or How to Walk Like an Ant)


One of the questions I like to ask at the start of some courses is this: If you walk ten paces north, then ten paces east, then ten paces south, what would you need to do to find your way back to your start point? The answer is at the bottom of the page. If you got this right, or even if you got it wrong but made a logical attempt to solve it, then you are already familiar with the concept of 'dead reckoning', even if the name is new to you.…

GPS Brainwaves


Scientists at Stanford University in Palo Alto have unveiled a car navigation system capable of following basic instructions without the need for speech or touch from the driver. The system, called Bicker 2.0, uses the disturbance in magnetic fields around our brains generated by thought patterns, to interpret the destination we are thinking of. “It is the early stages of what we believe to be the future of navigation systems,” Professor Unlikeliski told the New York Times, “And by early I mean that there are inevitably some glitches in this Beta release. Last week I thought hard…

Windvane Self-Steering


Although microchips have a childlike tendency to steal our attention away from almost anything else, I am not against technology itself. Once we have steeled ourselves to the risks of using any device, it is possible to have the best of all worlds: convenience, information, safety and awareness. If I was forced to choose my favourite piece of navigation technology, I would find it hard. The GPS, for all its many known vices, really is an extraordinary piece of kit. But it will never be my favourite, because... of all its many known vices. Also, because I'm very…

Radio 4 and Natural Navigator Book Reviews


Welcome Radio 4 listeners! You have found your way to the home of natural navigation on the Internet. (A podcast of my walk with Evan Davies for the Today programme can be found here. The short article that I wrote to go with the interview and the video that accompanied the broadcast can be found here.)The book reviews are starting to come in:'In a sat-nav dominated world, where GPS and a host of other acronyms designed to get us from A to B have overtaken paper maps, it is refreshing to meet someone who understands technology, but prefers…

Winter Solstice Drama


This is not the glorious image of the winter solstice sunrise that I had been planning for you. Events conspired against that. The original plan had been to drive up to a semi-secret location in the South Downs and take a picture of the sun rising in what were originally forecast to be clear cold skies. Yesterday morning I was driving the four miles from home to the gym but all four wheels of the Land Rover Defender lost traction on black ice and I slid headfirst into a substantial tree at about 25 miles-per-hour. I walked…

Navigation Conference


I'm just back from giving a short talk at the Royal Institute of Navigation's Land Conference at the National Physical Laboratory.I learnt plenty from the other speakers and chats during the breaks. One little gem: the Apollo program nearly lost two astronauts, literally. They were roaming the lunar surface and became temporarily unaware where 'home' was. Without a map, compass, GPS or any other instrument there were some tense moments before they found their way back successfully. Definitely an opportunity for some natural navigation training in this niche market, as I was not too shy to point out…

Tonight's Mad Full Moon


If you are feeling peculiar then it is probably best not to venture outside tonight. The gravitational pull of the full moon's alignment with the sun might have strange effects as it pulls on the water in your brain. Or so the ancients believed.Alternately, you might want to do something that GPS users would see as a symptom of madness and use it to find east in the early evening, south at midnight and west before dawn.I took this photo about ten minutes ago (18.23 GMT), looking east.

Transits Rock


While sorting my photos from our summer holiday I came across this one on the way to Les Ecrehous islands. It shows a critical moment in the use of a transit line to navigate the potentially hazardous approach. Transit navigation works by the very simple (and totally natural) principle that if you can see any two objects lined up then you must be somewhere on an extension of that line. The approach to Les Ecrehous, northeast of Jersey in the Channel Islands is so strewn with rocks that even GPS is of limited use, since by the time it tells…

Unnatural Navigation


I took this photo in St Peter Port, Guernsey, about ten days ago. This big fat gin palace probably doesn't get lost very often, all they need do is squint at the setting sun through their ice cold sundowners, think about the season and latitude, then wait for the blue to turn black and the stars to appear. Or they could just turn on one of the many lovely gizmos sprouting all over the top of the boat. GPS would do it, radar would too, or they could make a satellite call and 'phone a friend'.