Explore the world

by Lu Wang & Wenhui Peng,
PhD candidates at Polytechnique School of Montreal

What is the soul of the ship? Victor Hugo said: it is the compass. In my mind, the compass is the beacon of navigators and world explorers. Several centuries before, the technique is not well developed yet. Can you imagine the situation of the early exploration? Pioneers opened a new world with their enormous courage and sacrifice as lives. The appear of the compass has saved many lives and speeded up the discovery of new lands, as well as the economy and communication between nations and countries.

The compass is one of the four great inventions of ancient China. Earliest records show a spoon-shaped compass made of lodestone or magnetite ore, referred to as a "South-pointer" dating back to sometime during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BCE to 2nd century CE). The spoon-shaped instrument was placed on a cast bronze plate called a "heaven-plate" or diviner's board, which has complex directions based on the constellations. At first, the compass was used for geomancy like Feng Shui for a long time before it was used for navigation. Observation of nature is the most important lesson, no matter the magnetic phenomenon or the constellations. Exploring the new area and connecting with other people is the inner nature of human beings. With more understanding of the magnetic stone, people made simple pointer like a needle as a compass. The typical Chinese navigational compass was in the form of a magnetic needle floating in a bowl of water. The idea to apply a technique is to simplify it, and the simplest is the most widely used.    

Nowadays, even the compass becomes very simple and portable, people rarely take them. And programmers instal it into the smartphone, which most people depends on. The compass is able to determine north and south due to the magnet’s interaction with the Earth’s magnetic field. There is a magnetometer built in and accelerator and solid-state sensors enable smartphone display cardinal directions no matter which orientation the phone is in, according to the algorithmic software process.

Creativity comes from observation and application. Respect to the rules of nature and simplify the idea can be the shortest way for significant influence.