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A cartographic history of why North, not East or South, is up

How the north ended up on top of the map is an article by Nick Danforth, author/curator of (The/Mid) Afternoon Map blog, detailing how the north-up orientation came to be the default orientation, looking beyond Eurocentrism to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews who set the path for modern cartography. If you want more information, you might enjoy the Wikipedia article on the history of cartography, or you can really dig deep with the three-volume text, The History of Cartography, which is available in full from the University of Chicago Press online, split into individual PDFs for each chapter. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 18, 2014 - 28 comments

Here Be Duck Trees

An interactive version of Olaus Magnus’ 1539 Carta Marina, a map of the sea filled with the usual ( and unusual) monsters and creatures. (Slate)
posted by The Whelk on Dec 29, 2013 - 3 comments

Found at sea

An emergent map of the 18th and 19th century world
posted by spbmp on Dec 26, 2013 - 15 comments

Dung beetles and the Milky Way

Dung beetles and the Milky Way "When you view the Milky Way, you are gazing through the plane of this disk and at the universe around and beyond—which, astronomers report, is imponderably vast and contains billions of other galaxies ... On Earth, at least, humans suppose that we alone seek out the sweep of our own galaxy. But we’re wrong. In a paper in Current Biology, Marie Dacke, and her colleagues revealed that at least one other species takes guidance from the Milky Way: the dung beetle".
posted by dhruva on Feb 3, 2013 - 20 comments

"I have no data for this."

A Cat’s 200-Mile Trek Home Leaves Scientists Guessing [NYTimes.com] "Nobody knows how it happened: an indoor housecat who got lost on a family excursion managing, after two months and about 200 miles, to return to her hometown."
posted by Fizz on Jan 20, 2013 - 104 comments

Its' a Boat! Its a Plane! Its a Surfboard!

If you've ever been to Hawaii, chances are that you've passed through the John Rodgers Terminal at Honolulu International Airport without giving it a second thought. The great-grandson of distinguished American Commodores John Rodgers and Matthew Perry; John Rodgers was the second American naval officer to fly for the United States Navy and a submarine commander in WW1; but what earned him the honour of having the airport named for him was the amazing and inspiring first open-ocean flight to Hawaii. [more inside]
posted by PareidoliaticBoy on Dec 4, 2012 - 6 comments

How satnav maps are made

"Flawed satnav instructions are the scapegoat for ridiculous round-trips, buses wedged under bridges, and ambulances taking life-threatening diversions. But few understand or appreciate how far mapping companies go to ensure the accuracy of the data they’re providing."
posted by vidur on Jul 1, 2012 - 29 comments

100 years of ocean travel 1750 to 1850

For centuries, ships navigated by the stars. Thousands of ships' logs representing hundreds of thousands of position readings were diligently recorded by sailors for a future use they never could have imagined: 100 years of ocean travel 1750 to 1850.
posted by stbalbach on Apr 15, 2012 - 42 comments

Mission Accepted.....Mission Complete.

Gundam Navi: [Via: Comics Alliance] "If you're a Japanese otaku growing bored of your crippling iPhone GPS dependence, Namco Bandai could have the solution for you -- gaming your way to destinations with Mobile Suit Gundam. Gundam Navi, the first of a line of Character Navi programs, is a new GPS app that transforms a user's commute into "battle events" that pit a location marker against randomly generated enemies lined up on a given route." Gundam Navi is available for iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. The app costs ¥3,500 for one year of usage. [Screenshot 1] [Screenshot 2] [Screenshot 3] [Screenshot 4] [Screenshot 5]
posted by Fizz on Jul 30, 2011 - 28 comments

1000 Oceans

Mau Piailug passed away last week at 78 years old. He was a Master Navigator from the tiny island of Satawal. In the seventies, he traveled to Hawaii to help the Polynesian Voyaging Society revive the wayfinder's art, navigating by the sun, moon, stars, animals, waves and clouds. In 1976, he steered the Hokule'a, a traditional sailing canoe, from Hawaii to Tahiti without even so much as a compass. He began teaching a new generation of navigators and helped launch a revival of Polynesian culture. To honor him, the Polynesian Voyaging Society is raising money to assist the people of Satawal, while also preparing for a world wide voyage on the Hokule'a, to use their ancient wisdom to help imagine a new relationship to the planet we share.
posted by cal71 on Jul 21, 2010 - 18 comments

Signs: The most useful thing you pay no attention to

Slate takes on signs and wayfinding. Part 1: The secret language of signs. Part II: Lost in Penn Station. Part III: Legible London. Part IV: Do you draw good maps? Part V: The war over exit signs. Part VI: Will GPS kill the sign?
posted by parudox on Mar 11, 2010 - 41 comments

Search Patterns

Peter Morville is widely recognized as a father of the information architecture field, and he serves as an advocate for the critical roles that search and findability play in defining web user experience. His recent project titled Search Patterns, is a sandbox for collecting search examples, patterns, and anti-patterns; for example spime search, the ability to query objects in motion and find things in the real world. Morville is also on the editorial board of the new Journal of Information Architecture.
posted by netbros on Jul 31, 2009 - 4 comments

A Candle On The Water

The Lighthouse Directory. An information portal for over 9000 lighthouses, and sites of former lighthouses, all around the world. Photos, histories, technical specifications, etc. Most of the links are very thorough, with some including excerpts from keepers' logs. The site also includes links to current news stories and general historical articles related to lighthouses.
posted by amyms on Apr 22, 2008 - 28 comments

All at sea

How did the Polynesians navigate without maps? And where did they get to? [Previously]
posted by djgh on Aug 31, 2007 - 28 comments

TomTom Talks

You have reached your destination.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Dec 21, 2006 - 31 comments

Antique Celestial Maps

The U.S. Naval Observatory Library features high-res scans of images from antique books dealing with astronomy and navigation. Wallpapers, ahoy!
posted by Gator on Jul 13, 2006 - 18 comments

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich has some excellent online collections related to maritime history and technology, including telescopes, marine chronometers, sundials, and a whole lot more. Some stuff I've been looking at: John Harrison's chronometers (described in Dava Sobel's book Longitude), polyhedral sundials, and pocket globes.
posted by carter on Mar 15, 2006 - 4 comments

it's just spherical geometry...

Great Circle Mapper "Never again will I sigh and stammer when presented with the question, "Why does my flight from Chicago to Hong Kong fly over goddamn Siberia?" (via Salon registration or viewing short ad required)
posted by quonsar on Mar 10, 2005 - 30 comments

Who can invent for us a cartography of autonomy, who can draw a map that includes our desires? - Hakim Bey

Cartography is a skill pretty much taken for granted now, but it wasn't always so. Accurate maps were once prized state secrets, laborious efforts that cost a fortune and took years (or even decades) to complete.

How things have changed. (Yours now, $110) It took almost 500 years to map North America, but it's only taken one tenth of that to map just everything else. In the last 50 years, we've been able to create acurate atlases of two planets and one moon (with a second in the works). Actually, we've done a lot more than that. We're actually running out of things to map.

Maybe Not.
posted by absalom on Jan 27, 2005 - 17 comments

mars navigation history

The most accurate navigation in history. "We had to know everything from how the iron molten lava in the center of the Earth was churning to how plate tectonic movements were affecting the wobble of the Earth to how the plasma in the atmosphere delayed the radio signals to and from the Deep Space Network stations". ..even the seemingly insignificant solar radiation pressure and thermal radiation forces acting on the spacecraft to a level equal to less than a billionth of the acceleration of gravity one feels on the Earth needed to be taken into account. This mission set a new standard for navigation accuracy for all future interplanetary missions.
posted by stbalbach on Jan 4, 2004 - 2 comments

visomat teletext

Groovy German digital-retro. Not Friday, I know, but for website style-watchers a cool re-visting of teletext aesthetic and navigation.
posted by marvin on Feb 13, 2003 - 5 comments

SBC patents web site navigation

Evil SBC acts like bully going after small sites with an absurd patent. If you've ever designed a web site with "selectors or tabs that... seem to reside in their own frame or part of the user interface" such as Metafilter's header or Amazon's tabs or c|net's yellow side bar, then your design is in violation of SBC Communication's patent number 5,933,841. Here's the abstract:
A structured document browser includes a constant user interface for displaying and viewing sections of a document that is organized according to a pre-defined structure. The structured document browser displays documents that have been marked with embedded codes that specify the structure of the document. The tags are mapped to correspond to a set of icons. When the icon is selected while browsing a document, the browser will display the section of the structure corresponding to the icon selected, while preserving the constant user interface.
Armed with this patent SBC is going after web sites with a licensing fee of $100,000 to $16,000,000. Will this insanity ever stop?
via Jarle's Cyberspace
posted by DragonBoy on Jan 21, 2003 - 47 comments

How to build a bomb

How to build a bomb isn't all there is to the Internet as press would have you think. Anyway it's harder than just getting some plans, as this guy found out. So why not build a bomb shelter instead? Or build your own train, hovercraft, speedboat, car or plane - can't fly - don't worry build a flight simulator! Toast your success with DIY firewater cooked with your solar furnace. Enjoy your CB radio, listen to MP3s or toy with your sextant. And with all the kinky clothes and loads of pervy toys to make who has time to build bombs? I can see the bumper stickers now "Make leg spreaders, not war!"
posted by DrDoberman on Oct 14, 2002 - 13 comments

Gov Agency creates bare-bones web index

Gov Agency creates bare-bones web index Web sites assume that you know a little about what you're looking for. One US Federal agency has created a navigation engine that requires virtually no understanding of anything.

I'm torn. Part of me wants one of these navigation tools for every website I use. Part of me is a little disappointed that sites have to be this least-common-denominator-simple for people to use.

Do you like it? Would you want one for the sites you use? Discuss.
posted by basilwhite on Oct 25, 2001 - 14 comments


Whoa! Amazon.com's

Whoa! Amazon.com's added a new tab to it's menubar. And it's got MY name on it!
posted by Taken Outtacontext on Sep 26, 2001 - 46 comments

During a severe Air Defence Emergency in the US a regulatory scheme known as 'SCATANA' is automatically invoked to deal with the situation and minimise threats. The central provision of the plan is to 'disable navigation aids which the attackers might be relying on'. This didn't happen last Tuesday (FAA confirmed, NORAD refused comment). Could it have prevented the planes reaching their targets? Are there now serious grounds for concern regarding the implementation procedure of military provisions essential for preserving American airspace security? The Register appears to think so.
posted by Kino on Sep 17, 2001 - 7 comments

So tabs are considered a bad idea when it comes to designing navigation.

So tabs are considered a bad idea when it comes to designing navigation. What's better and where can it be found? Who has developed the best navigation system to be found on the Internet?
posted by Brilliantcrank on Sep 21, 2000 - 3 comments

These sliding menus

These sliding menus may not be anything much to you design mavens out there, but to a simple engineer/management consultant like myself, they are addictively neat. Whenever I check out the site, I find myself pulling them out and playing with them while deciding where to go in the site. How'd they do that?
posted by fpatrick on Jul 28, 2000 - 9 comments

MSNBC's Robert Wright seemes confused

MSNBC's Robert Wright seemes confused in this story about the Global Positioning System. He misinforms the reader about how terrorists can now use the military's encrypted GPS signals for more accurate positioning. (FYI: you are still unable to use the military's encrypted GPS signals, contrary to what Wright claims.)
more inside>>
posted by darainwa on Jun 28, 2000 - 2 comments

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