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    Re: Thought Experiment
    From: Robert Eno
    Date: 2002 Jun 12, 19:22 -0400

    Tough question Dan.  I could give you a very nebulous answer of: "not many
    and even at that, those numbers are shrinking rapidly.
    An organization that I belong to -- The Foundation for the Promotion of the
    Art of Navigation -- has, I am told, about 500 members world wide. Don't
    hold me to those numbers though because I cannot honestly remember where I
    heard this. The Navigation Foundation, as it is usually called, consists of
    the truly serious astro-navigators. Guys like me who like discussing lunars
    and reading detailed articles about archaic aspects of astro-navigation. The
    latter comment should not be taken as an insult to the membership or the
    Directors by the way.
    I am going to take a stab and say: a couple of thousand practicing (as
    opposed to dabbling) astro-navigators.
    It is a dying art. This becomes very clear when one tries to carry one's
    sextant through airline security. No one even knows what they are anymore.
    Used to be that they would be instantly recognized. I haven't had the
    pleasure of going through security with my sextant post Sept 11, but will be
    facing this prospect within the month. I will report my findings to the
    Your question brings up another topic of discussion: "Does astro-navigation
    have a future?" It seems that more and more, we are being relegated to the
    horse and buggy pile. GPS is king.
    Even the great C.Plath is no longer producing sextants. C.Plath to me, was
    the epitome of astro-navigation; the pinnacle of fine instrument making. We
    can take heart that Cassens and Plath are still producing fine brass
    sextants, but how long until they too, go out of business?  You can buy 10
    handheld GPS units for the price of one Cassens and Plath.
    It is sad really but I suppose that one cannot stop "progress". To make
    matters worse, I keep hearing scuttlebutt to the effect that the future of
    the printed Nautical Almanac is in question. I can't verify this but I
    believe that this topic was discussed in one of the issues of the Journal of
    the Institute of Navigation. Perhaps someone out there can shed some light
    on this. I hope the Naval Observatory continues to produce the NA, but it
    seems to me that it is only a matter of time before they decide that the
    effort is just not worth it when only a few hundred people a year are
    purchasing the item. I hope that I am being too pessimistic.
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Dan Allen 
    Sent: Wednesday, June 12, 2002 1:33 AM
    Subject: Thought Experiment
    > I propose a thought experiment with a couple of "back of the envelope"
    > estimation questions:
    > 1) How many sextant users are there in the world?
    > 2) What percentage of the world's population that are
    >    interested in sextants are on this mailing list?
    > I of course do not know the answers to these questions, but I think
    > we can make some reasonable assumptions to be able to come up with
    > ballpark figures.
    > If you decide to give this informal competition a try, please try and
    > give us some of your reasoning behind your estimates, because that is
    > the real interesting part of such a question!
    > Dan Allen

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