Harvard University’s John Huth lectures on “Navigation and the Lost Art of Wayfinding”
For wayward travelers
Over-reliance on the kind, computerized voices of our GPS devices, which instruct us to turn left or right on routes we could easily plan on our own, can create unnecessary dependence on gadgets. The practice is possibly making us less intelligent — and it can have dire consequences. For example, hikers may lose their way in the snow on well-established trails if they can’t interpret how the flakes are blowing, and kayakers can get lost in fog where, if they knew what to listen for, they could row towards the sound of the shore. Long before the advent of maps — now considered outdated, analog technology to some — ancient peoples relied on wind direction, star position, and other natural clues and markers to navigate their surroundings. More primitive cultures, it seems, were far handier than we are at basic observation: Vikings used the gem sunstone to detect the polarization of sunlight; Arab traders sailed into monsoon winds; and Pacific Islanders’ explorations were guided by underwater lightning. John Huth, the Donner Professor of Science in the physics department at Harvard University, and author of The Lost Art of Finding Our Way (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2013), discusses the navigation systems of Polynesians, Vikings, and European explorers, among others, in “Navigation and the Lost Art of Wayfinding,” a lecture hosted by the School for Advanced Research. The talk will take place on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the New Mexico History Museum Auditorium (113 Lincoln Ave., 505-476-5200). Admission is $10.