Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Use old AOL disk boxes for celestial navigation. It doesn't actually have to be a box from an AOL disk sent to you in the post, but, let's face it, no other type of disk box will give you quite the same pleasure. James Rummel spotted this admirable project: The CD-Sextant.
... This small instrument is built using a CD and box. As in the X-Tant Project, I used a few Lego blocks and glass mirrors. No electric tools are necessary to build a CD-Sextant. It's a good science project.

...The design takes advantage of the dimensional precision of CD parts and Lego bricks. The sextant arm is the CD itself and the sextant frame is the CD box. The angle is changed by turning the CD.

The sailing world really changed when the answer to the question "What if my GPS breaks down?" became "Buy two." If both break down, have a CD case handy.

I was equally interested by the post below. Soon the US Navy may be putting its sextants away forever. Not only its sextants, but its paper maps.

The Ticonderoga was navigated using the most advanced methods of the time but it wasn’t anywhere near automated. The navigator needed to really know his stuff to make sure that the ship got to where it was supposed to be and didn’t run into anything on the way. Every ship had a few chart lockers, cabinets which contained the detailed maps by mariners since the first ships sailed out of sight of land. Every single ship in the US Navy which put to sea would have their own set of 12,000 paper maps, adding more than a ton of weight and taking up a great deal of space. Not only that, but it was a logistics nightmare to keep all those charts up to date and current.
There is sadness in the passing - or, at least, the drastic mutation - of two technologies that have served since the Elizabethan age.