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Inner Navigation

Inner Navigation

Why We Get Lost in the World and How We Find Our Way

Introduction by: Donald A. Norman

Why are we so often disoriented when we come up from the subway?

Do we really walk in circles when we lose our bearings in the wilderness?

How -- and why -- do we get lost at all?

In this surprising, stimulating book, Erik Jonsson, a Swedish-born engineer who has spent a lifetime exploring navigation over every terrain, from the crowded cities of Europe to the emptiness of the desert, gives readers extraordinary new insights into the human way-finding system.

Written for the nonscientist, Inner Navigation explains the astonishing array of physical and psychological cues the brain uses to situate us in space and build its "cognitive maps" -- the subconscious maps it employs to organize landmarks. Humans, Jonsson explains, also possess an intuitive direction frame -- an internal compass -- that keeps these maps oriented (when it functions properly) and a dead-reckoning system that constantly updates our location on the map as we move through the world. Even the most cynical city-dweller will be amazed to learn how much of this innate sense we use every day as we travel across town or around the world.

Both a scientific and a human story, Inner Navigation contains a rich assortment of real-life insights and examples of the navigational challenges we all face, no matter where or how we live. It's a book that is as provocative to ponder as it is delightful to lose yourself in. Don't worry: Erik Jonsson will help you find your bearings.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743225038 | 
  • June 2010
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Strange Happenings

I will start by explaining what happened to me in 1948 when I got "turned around" in Cologne. It was quite a long time ago, but the memory is still very vivid.

I arrived in Cologne early in the morning while it was still dark after a sleepless night in an overcrowded train from Ostend, Belgium, and slept for a couple of hours on a bench in the Central Station. After daybreak I set out towards the Rhine to find a steamer for a cruise on the river. I knew I was near the river and was puzzled when it never came in sight. Finally I asked for directions and was told to turn around. There was the river, and... see more

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