Stone-Age Electronics

Compass

With today’s technology, it can be downright tough to get lost. At a glance, the monitor will tell you exactly where you are in the world, down to the nearest yard.
But consider this: Your batteries die and you find yourself turned around on miles of marsh flats or open water. Chances are you don’t carry an old fluid-filled compass anymore. What do you do?
OK, so the chances of this happening are slim, and you can use the sun and stars to get a bearing. But even if you never need to make your own compass, it’s a cool trick to know how to make one.
You’ll need something that floats. A small piece of foam from a lifejacket, a stick, anything that will float a small piece of metal will do the trick. You’ll also need a sliver of metal. A sewing needle is best, but you could also use the paper clip holding your registration and licenses together or a clipped hook shank.
Now you’ll need something to magnetize the metal. Rubbing it with a magnet is easiest, but 50 taps from a steel or iron nail will work. If you don’t have anything like that on-hand, try rubbing your metal with fur from the bear you just killed. Don’t have any fur? Use your silk underpants or your own hair if it comes down to it.

Once you’ve magnetized your needle or hook shank, run it through the floatation device and place it on water. A cup of water will work, or a puddle, so long as there’s no current. If it’s working, your compass should slowly rotate and then settle north to south.

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