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  • Transcriber: TED Translators admin Reviewer: Camille Martínez

  • Growing up in Missouri,

  • they would kind of take us out into the woods,

  • and they would give you a map, and they would give you a compass,

  • and you had to find your way home.

  • And without the compass,

  • you can't even read the map.

  • That's what I'm here to tell you.

  • The compass is the key.

  • [Small thing.]

  • [Big idea.]

  • A compass is most simply a piece of metal that has been magnetized,

  • so that it will turn towards the Earth's magnetic pole.

  • The one that we all think of is the pocket compass.

  • It looks like a watch, right?

  • You can hold it in your hand

  • and watch the little needle bounce around

  • until you find north.

  • Magnetism is still a pretty mysterious force to physicists,

  • but what we do know for sure is that a compass works

  • because the Earth is this giant magnet.

  • And when you use a compass,

  • you are in touch with the very center of our planet,

  • where this kind of roiling ball of molten iron

  • is spinning around and creating a magnetic field.

  • Just like a magnet you can play with on your tabletop,

  • it has a north pole and a south pole,

  • and we use compasses to find our way north because of that fact.

  • The earliest known compass comes from about 200 BC in China.

  • They figured out that some of the metal coming out of the ground

  • was naturally magnetic,

  • and so they fashioned this magnetized metal

  • into this kind of ladle-looking thing,

  • put it on a brass plate

  • and then it would point north.

  • It seems to have been primarily used to improve feng shui,

  • so they could figure out what was the best way for energy to flow

  • through their living spaces.

  • Sailors were probably the early adopters

  • of the more portable versions of it,

  • because no matter where the sun was,

  • no matter what the condition of the stars were,

  • they would always be able to find north.

  • Now, much later, the Europeans are the ones who innovate

  • and come up with the compass rose.

  • It essentially laid out

  • what north, south, east and west looked like,

  • and it also enabled you to kind of create new directions,

  • like northwest, southeast, what have you.

  • And for the first time, they knew where they were going.

  • That's kind of a big deal.

  • But also, I think it was part of this general reinvigoration

  • of European science.

  • You might know it as the Renaissance.

  • Lots of new tools were invented,

  • from the telescope to the microscope.

  • Maps got better because of compasses, right?

  • Because then you start to understand which direction is which,

  • you get a lot more detail,

  • and that just kind of changes

  • the human relationship to the world.

  • The compass with a map is like a superpower.

  • Everything that we think of as world history

  • would not have taken place without the compass:

  • the age of exploration, Magellan circumnavigating the globe,

  • even the fact that we know it is a globe.

  • The compass ends up getting embedded in all these other tools,

  • because it is such a functional object.

  • So you might have it embedded in your multi-tool,

  • you might have it embedded in your phone.

  • The compass is everywhere,

  • because it's literally how we find our way across the face of the Earth.

  • So you can go off and explore,

  • and find out what is over that next hill or that next horizon,

  • but you can also reliably find your way home.

Transcriber: TED Translators admin Reviewer: Camille Martínez

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B2 TED compass north embedded magnetic pole

How the compass unlocked the world | Small Thing Big Idea, a TED series

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/26
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