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    Viking sunstones in the Phil. Trans. R. Soc.
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2011 Feb 3, 22:41 -0800

    At nature.com, there's a review of an article that's just been published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society on viking sunstones and polarization of light. The title of the review: "Did Vikings navigate by polarized light?" and subtitled: "'Sunstone' crystals may have helped seafarers to find the Sun on cloudy days."

    This is old hat for most of us. While polarization of sunlight near sunrise or sunset does give a fairly good indication of the Sun's compass bearing at times when the Sun itself might be obscured by clouds, the practical value of this "trick" would be quite limited. Myself, I consider it essentially wishful thinking with no basis in actual history --at least so far. Thankfully, the nature.com article quotes two 'specialists' who make that very point. There's also a comment after the article suggesting that there are easier ways to detect polarized light, which is also true.


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