PredictionX: Lost Without Longitude

Soar from stars to satellite.

PredictionX: Lost Without Longitude is an online course from Harvard that explores how centuries of progress in navigation have helped put humans on the moon and spacecraft on a comet.

Featuring faculty from:
1 weeks
2-5 hours a week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Start PredictionX: Lost Without Longitude Today

What You'll Learn

Humans have been navigating for ages. As we developed the tools and techniques for determining location and planning a route, navigation grew into a practice, an art, and a science. Navigational skill has long been tied to commercial, economic, and military success. However, the ability to predict when and where one will reach a distant destination is more than just a key to empire-building — it’s often a matter of life and death.

Using video, text, infographics, and Worldwide Telescope tours, we will explore the tools and techniques that navigators have used, with a particular focus on the importance (and difficulty) of measuring longitude. Grounded in the principles of position, direction, speed, and time, we will learn the challenges of navigating without a GPS signal. We’ll learn how the Age of Exploration and the economic forces of worldwide trade encouraged scientific progress in navigation; and how Jupiter’s moons, lunar eclipses, and clockmakers all played a part in orienting history’s navigators.

Centuries of progress in navigation have helped put humans on the moon and spacecraft on a comet. This course will explain how we got there, and how that progress enables you to get where you’re going today.

The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • What exactly navigation is and how it works
  • The importance of position, direction, and speed
  • The many navigational tools of the 18th century
  • How the motion of the sun and stars aids navigation
  • Why longitude is so difficult to determine
  • The historical context of navigation’s technical advances
  • The role of chronometers and lunar distance
  • The story of John Harrison and The Longitude Prize

Your Instructor

Alyssa Goodman is a physicist by training (Sc.B, MIT 1984, PhD, Harvard 1989), but an artist at heart. She combines her passions for science and art with interests in computing, archaeology, the history of science, and new technologies in her work, which spans astrophysics, data visualization, and new approaches to STEM education. She was named “Scientist of the Year” by the Harvard Foundation in 2015. The PredictionX effort began during Goodman’s sabbatical as “Scholar-in-Residence” at the WGBH media organization in Boston, and crystallized into the highly collaborative project you see today when HarvardX committed to creating re-usable, modular, online, multi-media content.

Related Courses

Read More

Super-Earths and Life

Learn how scientists search for life outside of Earth

Join Harvard University Professor Dimitar Sasselov in this online course to learn about the Earth, life, and how we can search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Read More

PredictionX: John Snow and the Cholera Epidemic of 1854

Learn how the streets of 1850's Soho changed public health understanding.

PredictionX: John Snow and the Cholera Epidemic of 1854 is an online course from Harvard that explores the dataset that helped create the map that changed our understanding of cholera, public health, and epidemiology forever.

Read More

PredictionX: Omens, Oracles & Prophecies

Find your place in the Universe by attempting to gaze into the future.

PredictionX: Omens, Oracles & Prophecies is an online course from Harvard that examines the details of over a dozen prediction systems as well as theoretical frameworks connecting them.