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Tattoo Page: Vectors
Pulsar Map

So how exactly do you go about navigating in space - well the principle is basically the same as navigating on land - If you know where you are, and you know where you are going (which is debatable) then a vector may be calculated giving you the required direction of travel.

If for example I were to tell you that from where I live, Paris is on a bearing of approximately 104 degrees, and London 77 degrees, you have enough information to (try) triangulating in on my house. You probably wouldn't find it, in fact I doubt you'd find Exeter because of the innaccuracy of the measurements, but hopefully you might find Devon at least.

With no obvious north in space things are more complicated, all the bearings become relative to each other, and to ensure the calculation still works, a third bearing is required. To be on the safe side, my tattoo utilises 12 such bearings - hopefully this is sufficient. Because there is a degree of difficulty in measureing the angles from a tattoo, I have also kept the line lengths in proportion. Our estimation of the position of pulsars is approximate, but the one thing we can measure to a very high accuracy is their pulse speed, so this is the value that has been encoded into binary along the line.

Several people have pointed out that space is three-dimensinal - this is of course quite correct, but in our rather dull little corner of it, you might be supprised how flat it is, none of the pulsars used are more than 20 degrees off of the plane in which the Milky Way lies. Even if they were, the number of bearings taken (and the relative emptiness of space) should make it work anyway.

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