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The South-Pointing Chariot, a non-magnetic compass - Input Junkie
December 7th, 2010
10:01 am

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The South-Pointing Chariot, a non-magnetic compass
The chariot is a two-wheeled vehicle upon which is a pointing figure connected to the wheels by means of differential gearing. Through careful selection of wheel size, track and gear ratios, the figure atop the chariot will always point in the same direction, hence acting as a non-magnetic compass vehicle.

The south pointing chariot was invented in China over 2000 years ago. I'm not sure that it was ever more than a curiosity. Still, it's a very curious and remarkable curiosity, and I can't imagine how anyone ever thought it was a possible project.



I don't think I could understand how it worked without having built one, but the video may be more comprehensible to other people.

Any other nominees for "how did that ever occur to them?" inventions?

Link found at Less Wrong.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/448050.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:dcseain
Date:December 7th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
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I see huge advantages to this in terms of navigation. Knowing any direction as a constant makes it easier to get places.
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From:nancylebov
Date:December 7th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
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The Chinese had magnetic compasses at the same time, and I can't imagine the south pointing chariot was able to compete.
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From:andrewducker
Date:December 8th, 2010 09:00 am (UTC)
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It's only going to work so long as the wheels maintain perfect contact with the ground. As soon as one (or both) of the wheels skids you've lost your direction. I suspect that this would make it unworkable over any kind of distance, particularly on rough roads.
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From:terriwells
Date:December 7th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
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Wow, now I almost want to build one. That's pretty cool.
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From:radiotelescope
Date:December 8th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
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I have an art book documenting the construction of one of these. It was made by Kit Williams, the artist-author of the _Masquerade_ book. It's darn pretty.

http://www.gingkopress.com/07-art/kit-williams-engines.html
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