Having bought a new bussole yesterday, I found this morning a blog entry “Why Our GPS Devices Can Betray Us”
So why is it that our maps — digital or otherwise — so often get us lost? For one thing, they’re usually used for exploring unfamiliar places. Many indigenous navigators, in contrast, practice their skills across large but generally known areas; even if the individual does not have direct experience of a place, they will likely have heard descriptions of it, some of which are passed down generationally. For Westerners, the combination of a lack of local knowledge and unquestioned faith in the power of a map can be disastrous, particularly when we forgo our own perception, instincts, and problem-solving skills. Far from home and familiar reference points, Tom and I followed our GPS’s directions, compounding one bad decision after another, even though we knew Pimlico was south. People seem to have an astonishing ability to believe their GPS is always right, even when such belief defies logic. … “We are largely unconscious of the centrality of maps in contemporary Western life ” [David Turnbull] writes … Turnbull locates the origins of this phenomenon in the cartographic revolution around 1600 in Europe. At that time, maps began to be seen as emblematic of scientific knowledge, and in exchange scientific theories were conceived as maplike.
A compass will always help, even when there is no sun, as we humans have not trained our ability to sense magnetic fields according to some new research.
We report here a strong, specific human brain response to ecologically-relevant rotations of Earth-strength magnetic fields. Following geomagnetic stimulation, a drop in amplitude of electroencephalography (EEG) alpha-oscillations (8–13 Hz) occurred in a repeatable manner. Termed alpha-event-related desynchronization (alpha-ERD), such a response has been associated previously with sensory and cognitive processing of external stimuli including vision, auditory and somatosensory cues.