Facing South

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Re: Facing South

Postby windwalker on Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:21 pm

some history

The arrow of the compass can just as easily point south, since the magnetized metal needle simply aligns with the earth’s magnetic field, with a pole at each end. Indeed, the Chinese supposedly referred to their first compass magnets as south-pointing stones.

Crucially, the Chinese developed this convention before they began to use compasses for navigation at sea. By the time Europeans adopted the compass, though, they were already experienced in navigating with reference to the North Star, the one point in the heavens that remains fixed anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

Many mariners saw the compass as an artificial replacement for the star on cloudy nights and even assumed it was the pull of the star itself that drew the needle north.

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2 ... globe.html
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Wed Aug 07, 2019 8:02 pm

whats in a name ?


Exactly. North and south are just names.

Granted it’s hard to get past the different way to read maps. It still makes my brain hurt. But this idiotic notion that the Chinese South is actually North needs to go away.


I wasn't making that claim at all. I don't buy that Chinese people read maps any differently or need to do so. All that's necessary for navigation is to be sure of any direction. Magnetic north doesn't even point to true north. I've never questioned it, but does a Chinese model of the globe show the world with the South Pole on top, like their maps?

Anyway, from what I've read, the first Chinese compasses were made for feng shui and divination, not navigation. And, maybe I am trying to analyze why using western science. No need to argue about that or westerners trying to understand. From my perspective, the question is whether it's critical to do the form in particular direction because of the earth's magnetic field. I was wondering whether emphasis on the south had anything to do with spin.

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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Wed Aug 07, 2019 8:12 pm

Hey, does anyone post a copy of an ancient Chinese map of the world?

Edit: I looked, but it seems that there aren't many. The ones that exist are mostly of ancient China's landmass. Then again, perhaps one other reason South was important on maps was because it was a direction of trade, and conflict with Japan, for ex. The South might also have had some mythical significance, as the origin of something. But, they didn't have a world map until after contact with European maps.
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Re: Facing South

Postby D_Glenn on Wed Aug 07, 2019 8:43 pm

Brinkman gave the traditional view on why to face south (towards Antartica), but I believe that in the last century the Chinese have embraced the idea of aligning with the magnetic fields of the earth.
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Re: Facing South

Postby D_Glenn on Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:12 pm

In both maps, in conformity with Chinese ancient cosmological views, south is above and north below. This is based on the orbit of the sun which reaches its highest point at the time of the summer solstice in the south­ern part of the sky. It was believed to travel in the subterranean region during the night, reaching its most northerly point at the time of the winter solstice. Thus, east on the maps is on the left side and west on the right. (In order to identify features on this map with those on modern maps, it is advisable to turn them upside down). https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/ancient-chinese-maps/
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:36 pm

D_Glenn wrote:
In both maps, in conformity with Chinese ancient cosmological views, south is above and north below. This is based on the orbit of the sun which reaches its highest point at the time of the summer solstice in the south­ern part of the sky.


The relation to the sun to the earth seems a reasonable explanation for focusing on the south, basing it on an astrological or cosmological rather than a geocentric reference. Positioning (oneself in space or things in the home) probably began with observing and using the sun, moon, and stars. The discovery that a magnet would point in a single direction didn't have to occur at the same time. But, people needed to find their way about long before.
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Re: Facing South

Postby eddie mush on Thu Aug 08, 2019 1:55 am

A good read on maps and the orientation of cardinal directions.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:01 am

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Re: Facing South

Postby LaoDan on Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:06 am

Appledog wrote:I didn't say so in my post because I do not know but I suspect it would have to be the earth's magnetic field. I have read that 30% of humans can detect magnetic north with some training but i think the number would really be much lower.

If that 30% value came from studies in the 1980s, then those were controversial and were unable to be replicated by studies by other researchers, and should probably be discarded as being unsubstantiated. Those old studies were done at a time when migration and homing in animals was still poorly understood. They primarily used behavioral studies that could be confounded by other cognitive factors (e.g., attention and memory...), and cannot be used to substantiate any geomagnetic sensory abilities in humans.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:48 am

It's interesting that there's been a fairly recent study that proposes that humans may have some ability to detect magnetic fields. It would certainly be a useful evolutionary advantage. If we had it, I'm sure we would have used it for navigation long before compasses. However, there's no reason to believe that a new "sense" might not be discovered. Anyway, here's the article. https://theconversation.com/new-evidenc ... eld-113536

Btw, personally, if the earth's magnetic field affects us, then holding a compass magnet would affect us much more. However, in terms of an ability encoded in the genes of mammals, then I wouldn't be surprised if someone could learn to use it the way some humans have learned echo location, or even visualization through touch or hearing. It's all the brain's ability to translate the what it senses into meaning.
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Re: Facing South

Postby LaoDan on Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:59 am

Steve James wrote:It's interesting that there's been a fairly recent study that proposes that humans may have some ability to detect magnetic fields. It would certainly be a useful evolutionary advantage. If we had it, I'm sure we would have used it for navigation long before compasses. However, there's no reason to believe that a new "sense" might not be discovered. Anyway, here's the article. https://theconversation.com/new-evidenc ... eld-113536

Btw, personally, if the earth's magnetic field affects us, then holding a compass magnet would affect us much more. However, in terms of an ability encoded in the genes of mammals, then I wouldn't be surprised if someone could learn to use it the way some humans have learned echo location, or even visualization through touch or hearing. It's all the brain's ability to translate the what it senses into meaning.

That new study seems very well designed and implemented. It shows that humans, at least on a subconscious level, have some physical characteristic that the brain can interpret as a sensory input from changing geomagnetic forces/orientations.

In modern times people likely have less need for orientation cues than our ancestors may have needed, where disorientation for a hunter-gatherer could potentially be deadly. We naturally suppress sensory inputs that are deemed to be less important. Vision dominates, but other senses are capable of providing information that we are typically not aware of since we tune them out in order to avoid sensory overload. Sensory overload can be seen in some autistic individuals, and “recovery” (or heightened awareness) of other sensory inputs is shown in those who go blind in order for them to compensate for the loss of sight.

Note, however, that only 4 of the 34 subjects appear to have had high enough levels of the brain activity increase to actually reach individual significance, and for those it was still only on a subconscious level. Still, the study does bring up the intriguing possibility that some humans could potentially bring this brain signal into conscious awareness since the sensory apparatus seems to be present.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Bao on Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:10 pm

A magnetic sense or sensativity for geographical orientation is nothing new. More than 20 years ago scientists discovered that we might have an inbuilt compass (in the nose) that humans probably could use pretty good for many thousand years ago. Many mammals could have it and use it instinctively to orient them.

https://anthropology.net/2006/11/21/the ... uman-nose/
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:49 pm

an inbuilt compass (in the nose) that humans probably could use pretty good for many thousand years ago. Many mammals could have it and use it instinctively to orient them.


Imo, whatever sensitivity that a mammal has in imbedded in the dna. However, I'd argue that modern humans follow their eyes more than any subconscious sense of magnetic fields. Early humans didn't need to go north or south, they needed to find food, water, and the necessities of life. I.e., they didn't need to know directions in an abstract way, the way later mapmakers and navigators did. The use of the stars, the wind, the orientation of the sun, the environment as a whole, was all that was necessary for them to survive.

Contemporary humans (nomads) who have lived in the desert for thousands of years use the dunes, the sun, and the stars to navigate. But, they only need to know how to get to the next oasis. I wonder if they use compasses and maps today. Or, take people who live in dense forests. Those are the types of people who should be examined. Though, again, I don't think they find resources by detecting magnetic fields. If they do, it'd be unclear whether they knew it was a magnetic field they were using.

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Re: Facing South

Postby Bao on Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:58 pm

Though, again, I don't think they find resources by detecting magnetic fields. If they do, it'd be unclear whether they knew it was a magnetic field they were using.


When you run around hunting for food an inbuilt compass would be excellent. You don’t want to get lost in the forrest. I can absolutely see a reason for development of magnetic detection as humans were constantly traveling, moving around, changing environment. It would be practical when you are not used to the environments.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:49 pm

Anyway, let's say that it's true that humans had that ability. They didn't know that it was a magnetic sense, or that there were magnetic poles. To them, or let's say the earliest hominid, all they'd know is "let's go that way." Given that there must also have been environmental clues, there's no way to separate them from any magnetic perception they may have unconsciously had.
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