Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Your favorite books and links
Post Reply
User avatar
jennypenny
Posts: 6335
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Stepford USA

Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by jennypenny »

Reviews on Goodreads here.

It was pretty good. It might be worth a read because it addresses the acquisition and usefulness of navigation skills and how our brains might rely on them to stay sharp as we age. Navigation (place orientation w/o electronic assistance) might be one of those skills that has more benefits than we realized.

I'll admit though I'm predisposed to like any book that justifies my parenting style of kicking my kids outside and sending them off into the world on their own. :P

NPR podcast with the author.

User avatar
Ego
Posts: 4491
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:42 am

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by Ego »

Interesting. I've long railed against gps for just this reason.

When we were in Jordan we had a car for a month and couldn't find a good paper map of the country. I wasn't too worried since there aren't many roads and I had gps on my phone. We ended up using google maps with voice directions the entire time since many of the road signs were in Arabic. It has been three months now and I am unable to remember all but the major routes we took in Jordan.

Strangely, I can vividly remember routes we followed though Africa 18 years ago. I can also remember things like smells and colors and changes in geology and different people from Africa whereas Jordan seems much flatter.

I've been puzzling out why. Every morning in Africa we would pour over the maps, anticipate turns and jot down notes. I was alert to changes and intersections and every road sign we passed. I was nervous about getting lost. I was constantly concentrating and often asked directions multiple times in the day.

In Jordan I didn't think at all. I didn't even look at the map. I wasn't nervous, barely looked at road signs, often allowed my mind to wander and never asked for directions.

We won't make that mistake again.

User avatar
jennypenny
Posts: 6335
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Stepford USA

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by jennypenny »

The author also discussed the book on the Art of Manliness podcast.

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 1774
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by Sclass »

I revisited two point triangulation this week with some friends. I told a story of how I once got hopelessly lost in the Urals and used a map and Suunto compass to triangulate off a radio antenna and a monument to Lenin. I couldn’t read Cyrillic so signs were meaningless.

Some GPS dependent youngster was brave enough to ask, “how do you do that anyway?” We went into the backyard and shot bearings to the local mountains and located ourselves. For a moment I felt like an old guy showing people how to start a fire or flake flint arrow heads. People were interested yet nobody had a clue how to do it. There is a natural desire to know how to do this.

What blew me away even more was another kid asked how exactly GPS worked. We use it all the time but nobody at the party (mostly tech people) actually knew how the satellites do absolute location. People made up a lot of imaginary methods though. “They broadcast latitude and longitude”. :lol: Back in 1800 I think navigators knew exactly what their sextant, chart and clock did, beside how to use it.

daylen
Posts: 1394
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by daylen »

I imagine that the same benefits (a well connected hippocampus) can be achieved by navigating spaces other than the surface of earth. Games with an open world (Skyrim, WoW, Minecraft, and so forth) are much easier with strong spatial skills. One major difference is that these are all disconnected, so perhaps this allows the brain to more easily compartmentalize such spaces and their associations. Overtime, lack of playing could disassociate them in the mind.

I can still remember the blueprint or structural layout of every(?) building I have been in from a very young age (in the hundreds). I can also remember 30+ Call of Duty maps, and several other maps I encountered in various games from the ages of 12-17. I have to focus for a couple minutes to bring them into my awareness, but they seem to still be quite vivid even after a few years. Even the internet can be projected onto a topology for easier recall. My current hypothesis is that types with third slot Si do not have much control over what they remember, but they tend to have extremely good memories for particular data structures. Si in the first or second slot would tend to remember a wider variety of information. I typically cannot remember names or dates very well even if I try, but I was born with an affinity for efficiently encoding certain forms of spatial information.

(?) It is probable that locations have been disassociated to the point that I cannot find a path back to them.

Recently, I have been playing GeoGuessr where you are placed somewhere on Google Street View. The objective of the game is to pinpoint your location using any cues available at your disposal (signs, languages, street markings, cars, side of road, foliage, sun position, people, markets, and much more). This seems like a good exercise if you do not want to spend money or energy traveling. Going on a walk every day is another low-cost hippocampus exercise.

It is also worth mentioning that all of the so-called extreme feats of memory are done using the method of loci. Information can be encoded into a dictionary-like data structure where the key is a list of either real or fictional locations.

henrik
Posts: 766
Joined: Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:58 pm
Location: EE

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by henrik »

Sclass wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:45 pm
What blew me away even more was another kid asked how exactly GPS worked. We use it all the time but nobody at the party (mostly tech people) actually knew how the satellites do absolute location.
Location is always relative to a reference point:)
Finding out how GPS (or GLONASS or Galileo or whatever the Chinese version is called) really works is worth spending an evening or two finding out. I thought I had a pretty good idea, but was recently given a challenge (by a teacher!) to make sure. It was nothing like I'd assumed and imagined. The next few evenings were spent with biographies of Einstein and Doppler. Really fascinating (GPS technology, not so much the biographies...)

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 1774
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by Sclass »

Daylen you bring up a good point. I’m not a big fan of games and it’s commonly warned that they remap the brain. But I’m sure there are some areas like those you mention where your brain can be strengthened especially given the repetition of gaming.

I can barely remember the last time I was hopelessly lost in real life. I don’t wander in the wilderness anymore nor do I travel much outside familiar places. And when I do, I use GPS and go blind so to speak. It’s funny how you lose all concept of scale and all distances get judged by time of travel rather than passing landmarks.

Come to think of it the last time I wandered hopelessly lost was in a computer game.

daylen
Posts: 1394
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by daylen »

Sclass wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:31 pm
I’m not a big fan of games and it’s commonly warned that they remap the brain. But I’m sure there are some areas like those you mention where your brain can be strengthened especially given the repetition of gaming
Seems like just another type bias. The Ne-Si axis can be quite unsettling/disorienting for many. I am fairly sure that my gaming background helped me develop a more creative outlook in life. All the rule sets, maps, simulations, and real-time optimization schemes have been abstracted away into an intermediate layer in my mind and mingled with mathematics. Engaging with many separate realities aids the kind of imagination required for constructing mathematical arguments and solving novel problems.

Sort of relates to the other thread on employ-ability. My motto is more along the lines of play first, then figure out how to gain an advantage later when needed. Though, it is probably more challenging to maintain sanity this way.

henrik
Posts: 766
Joined: Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:58 pm
Location: EE

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by henrik »

Sclass wrote:
Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:31 pm
you lose all concept of scale and all distances get judged by time of travel rather than passing landmarks.
In practical terms, I think this is a very good description of what happens when you use navigation tech instead of finding your way.

daylen
Posts: 1394
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by daylen »

I didn't know this until just now when I went on a Wikipedia binge: Atrophy of the hippocampus is linked to MDD (major depressive disorder). More people are depressed now than ever before. I have no idea if there is any causal direction or hidden factors influencing such correlations, but the connection seems relevant to this thread.

CS
Posts: 413
Joined: Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:24 pm

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by CS »

I love this on so many levels but mostly just the geeky effects of mass on space and time:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/28/us/nasa- ... index.html

ffj
Posts: 2043
Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:16 am

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by ffj »

I love this subject as I used to head up a search and rescue team for a volunteer dept. Honestly, with the right mapping program, a GPS unit, a paper copy of the region being searched, a compass, a pencil, and a grid tool it is very hard to get lost. Even if the GPS dies along with the computerized mapping program. The key is to have the proper map before you start the journey. We used TerrainNavigatorPro for the mapping and switched our GPS units to UTM (universal transverse mercator). With this system it is almost impossible to get lost or not know where your guys are in the field.

I learned all of this stuff after we had to search for a lost hunter experiencing chest pains and to be honest it was a clusterfuck, although we did find him eventually. We had teams all over the place with no idea where they had searched or if they even knew where they were when they radioed back to us in command. It was a mess, and the guy was saved, but man did we waste a lot of energy and time finding him.

What is also interesting are the case studies of people that get lost. Almost all of them if they decide to walk out eventually create a circle if they don't have the training to overcome this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Kim

Look at his route on foot:

https://www.denverpost.com/2006/12/08/s ... ear-lodge/

The book we followed when searching:

https://profoundjourney.com/13-facts-lo ... behaviour/

One of the things you figure out fast is that the simple answer is usually the right one. And that dogs are hit and miss. I was never all that impressed with the dog's performance, but it could have been a dog handlers issue as well.

User avatar
jennypenny
Posts: 6335
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Stepford USA

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by jennypenny »

I read a new book called Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives. I can't really recommend it because it's way too long, but one of the takeaways is that wayfinding is a good way to keep the brain sharp as we age. What works best is walking in a novel area that offers a bit of difficulty (walking was superior to driving or traveling, but all were good).

To save you the agony of slogging through hundreds of pages ... the takeaways from the book are basically that exercise -- movement more than deliberate exercise -- and novelty/continued learning are best at keeping the brain lubed and functioning. The latter included everything from keeping up with technology to forcing yourself to try new things/ways instead of settling into what you like best.

It made me think the semi-ERE and permaculture approaches to ERE might superior to FIRE from a brain perspective unless a person is super motivated.

The other takeaway is that social interaction is the most challenging thing we do as humans and helps keep our brains young. Again, I thought of the ERE crowd and how that bit of advice applied to our socially-challenged group. I just read another book on Friendship, and the two dovetail in this respect.

After reading both I can see how the stereotypical image of retirees playing golf every day with their friends isn't really so bad after all, especially if they mix it up and try new courses. Other activities would work as well but golf is a pretty one, as is traveling/sightseeing (on foot). I won't make fun of retirees doing them anymore.


Anyway ... didn't seem worth starting its own thread since it mostly recommended different kinds of wayfinding as way to prevent cognitive decline as we age.

User avatar
fiby41
Posts: 1121
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:09 am
Location: India

Re: Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

Post by fiby41 »

Perhaps already mentioned in any of the resources linked above, but the Native Australians have direction embedded in the language. They have the four cardinal directions north, south, east, west instead of left, right, front, back. Instead of the person, the earth is the frame of reference. Spatial memory (in the hippocampus?) must be well developed when you've to give and take directions using this method.

Post Reply