University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series > Vikings in shades: navigating by skylight polarization

Vikings in shades: navigating by skylight polarization

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Topological Dynamics in the Physical and Biological Sciences

The hypothesis that Vikings navigated at sea using ‘sunstones’ to detect the direction of skylight polarization has excited controversy for almost 50 years. It is possible to understand the necessary crystal optics, and light scattering in daylight, with only a minimum of linear algebra. In this talk I will describe the viking navigation hypothesis, and in doing so reveal the deeper and surprising relationship between polarization in birefringent crystals and in the blue sky, based on a topological understanding of the tensors involved in the propagation and scattering of light.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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