Fri Dec 24th, 2010 at 07:25:31 AM EST
Over the last few months, I have read about some incredible ideas, full of wonder, that I would like to share with you. I hope they make you wonder as much as they did me.
1. The mysterious Dorset People
Contrary to most people's beliefs, the Inuit haven't occupied the Far North for many millenia. They arrived at around 900 C.E. probably from Siberia and moving eastwards towards North America and finally Greenland.
However, they met and replaced as inhabitants of this desolate region a group of people that are mysterious to us, and legend to the Innuit: the Dorset people. Named after artifacts found in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, they are assumed to have been very tall, very peace loving and to be have become extinct around 1500 CE. They lived in stone buildings and may have taught the Innuit how to live in the Arctic.
They had no boats, no sled dogs and no bows and arrows, yet managed to survive in the most extreme conditions on Earth. They survived by fishing marine mammals and as the ice receded in the Medieval Warm Period, they moved to the High Arctic and later became extinct.
You can read more here:
2. How did the Polynesians manage to navigate the oceans without maps or compasses?
They used a system called "wave train analysis" where one uses understanding of various types of objects that can affect wave movement in water.
The Polynesians did not have lodestones with which to make compasses, and their navigation system does not emphasize the stars, but the sea itself. The different wave patterns are studied and observed, as many, improbably, as fourteen simultaneously. The sophistication of the navigation is best appreciated in the bathtub. Set up a small wave train at one end of the tub by wiggling your finger. Now wiggle your finger at another end of the tub. Observe the interaction between the two sets of waves. Add a third system with another finger and try to discern each of the three wave patterns. This is already becoming formidably complex. Add a fourth, and a fifth. Keep going.
Navigating by wave train alone, the waves were best felt with the testicles; the navigator on each canoe had a special cabin he hunkered in. The idea, however, of making sense out of an interference pattern involving more than three or four wave systems is mind-boggling. The mathematical complexity of a fourteen-source interference pattern would appear more than can be held by any human brain. Or scrotum. And yet the historical record is clear about the existence of trading routes between Hiva Oa and Hawaii.
Yes, our world is a wonderfully complex and mysterious place which we have yet to fully understand and appreciate.
I hope you enjoyed this diary and it has piqued your interest in learning about these fascinating (to me, at least) topics.