Thursday, December 01, 2005

Further Info On The Jerusalem Compass

I just got an email advertising an interesting product - the Jerusalem compass. Always points towards Yerushalayim from wherever you are in the world. Very cool. Check it out.
Defies Nature! Just Open The Cover and Find Your Way Home!
NEW Patented Technology! An amazing, attractive, compass that defies nature as it spins… and stops in the direction of our prayers and dreams… Jerusalem! Now you will always know the correct direction of your aspirations and prayers - anywhere in the world. Recommended by leading Rabbi's. SPECIAL OFFER, Ships with free Western Wall Images CD for orders before Chanukah 2005. (Can also be Personally Engraved...Click Details)
Though they spelled "Rabbis" wrong.

Important Update: According to blogger Observant Astronomer, this device likely works from only one location. That is, if you are in New York, it is rigged so that it faces East, or whatever exactly will point to Jerusalem. If you were in Russia, it would be similarly rigged. But you cannot take your compass to Russia and expect it to work. Thus, the advertising that "Now you will always know the correct direction of your aspirations and prayers - anywhere in the world" is quite misleading, and I do not know if it is worth the $25. Though from the detailed description, it seems that what was intended is that this is a product available for use by anyone in the world - and they will rig it appropriately for you, such that in your country, it will face Jerusalem. Thus, it perhaps was not at an attempt to mislead but to sell to a wider audience.

To cite his post:
I have located what is apparently the patent application in question. The inventor is indeed Moshe, but he now apparently lives in New Jersey. It is listed as a "Novelty Item". As one of the anonymous commentators speculated, it is indeed a standard compass with the magnetized needle hidden and another, non-magnetized, needle suspended above it set to point east. At point 14 it points out that similar devices could be made for other locations ". For example, a compass indicating South can be marketed in Finland and Russia," etc. At point 16, it is designed to "appear to defy the laws of physics" by minimizing the space for the magnetized needle.

So, it will only work from one location. It does not point any more accurately to Jerusalem than any other compass. It just saves you having to turn 90 degrees. It is indeed incredible. Literally, too good to be true. Further commentary is left to the reader.
I will try contacting them for clarification.
Important Update: Published exchanges of correspondence over at the Observant Astronomer seem to show that in fact this is not just for one place, but will work all over the world, and that the device is patent pending, and that the patent in question is not the same. If the device works as advertised, it may well be a great Chanukka gift!

I had my own email correspondence with the distributor or publisher, as promised. I wrote them as follows:
I received your email about this device, which seems nice, and put a post on
my blog to let others know about it.

Then I saw on some other blogs that the device would seem to work from only
one location, such that if someone took it on a trip from New York to
Moscow, it would not function correctly in Moscow. If so, your ad copy is
misleading, and you are going to have some quite unhappy customers. I think
you meant that this is product that will work for whoever purchases it, in
his hometown, but the ad copy was unintentially misleading. Can you confirm
the details? Also, perhaps you can update the description to make this
clearer. (and also to change the typo "Rabbi's" to "Rabbis."

All the best,
Josh Waxman
They responded, but I did not get permission to publish their letter, so will not publish it here. Basically, they said that there are other blogs that wrote the product up in a misleading way, and to make sure to get the description directly from them. I am not sure which blogs they mean here. It could mean my initial description, or it could mean Observant Astronomers. Especially since their description can be taken in one of two ways, as I noted when being dan lekaf zechut above - that they meant that it can be configured from anywhere in the world. They cannot tell further details about how this works, since it is patent pending. But presumably this means that you can go from New York to Moscow and it would still work. I wonder if it would need some simple reconfiguring, though.

If you look at the image they provide, you will note that besides Jerusalem, there are numbers about the compass (0 to 340, as 360 = 0). There is also a knob on the side. It would seem that this would be for the purpose of configuration. Perhaps based on your country, there is a booklet which gives a number, based on latitude or longitude/latitude, which provides the proper offset for that other magnet, so that you actually point towards Jerusalem.

Just a guess.

It certainly cannot use GPS because it is non-electronic.

They said that is has a 30 day money-back guarantee. It may well indeed be a great Chanukka gift - though you might want to contact the distributor yourself, to make sure you know what you are getting.


The Observer said...

Much the same idea came to me last night as I lay thinking about it. The knob presumably changes the offset between the magnetized and non-magnetized needles. Still, there is no indication on the website for any such need for a calibration step. The advertisement certainly suggests that no such step is required. And it certainly would be a pain in the neck to use in Jerusalem itelf. Move one block and you need to recalibrate.

Rebeljew said...

This is all lovely, but there is STILL no defiance of the laws of nature. The ad implies that the there is not only a defiance o the laws of nature, but that the gedolim have seen it and sustain it. That is the implication of Moshe's response also.

So is it is or is it ain't a magical device, sustained by the great minds of Judaism?

joshwaxman said...

oy vey.
give me a break!

Only someone with a huge chip on his shoulder would read it that way. No *chareidi* would read it this way. There is a difference between ad copy and genuine claims of miracles. "Defies the laws of nature" is ad copy.

They spent 11 years developing this, and there is a patent pending for it (a fact mentioned in the ad). What they mean by "defies the laws of nature" is that it *seems* to defy the laws of nature in that people expect a compass to point North, not east or whatever specific direction Jerusalem lies. Obviously, they hope to patent a technological construction, rather than a miracle.

The gedolim are NOT endorsing the "miracle". They are endorsing the "better" halachic observance made possible by use of the Jerusalem compass. This is an endorsement re halacha, not regarding miracles.

I don't see anything in Moshe's response that would suggest otherwise.

Yours is an attempt to manufacture a controversy where none exists.

Anonymous said...

It's a fallacious argument to say that since something is patent-pending that they can't discuss it. By definition all patent applications are published 18 months after they are filed (unless the filer forgoes any rights to use their filing date to base foreign patent applications on - then it only gets published when/if the patent is published after 2-4 years). So if indeed it is a different patent application then the one mentioned (I did a search and found the same one) then likely it was filed less than 18 months ago and will be published in the near future anyways.

Look, it's physically impossible for a mechanical device to point towards a common point without some kind of calibration. If I were to guess the other patent these people are talking about is the addition to the one found that has the calibration feature. If they had really found a way to make a mechanical device that could point towards a single point on the planet, they wouldn't be marketing a novelty item but intertial navigation systems for the military.

joshwaxman said...

it is not my argument - I'm summarizing what they said in the email (without actually publishing the email). they linked the fact that it was patent pending and that it had taken 11 years to develop. then that they were not at liberty to divulge the Physics.

perhaps they meant that to divide the two statements - that for reasons of competition, they were not at liberty - and further, it works in some scientific way, which took X years to develop and has a patent, so even though we cannot divulge this, you can believe us that it works.

or perhaps they are afraid that before the patent is approved, and/or before it is published, someone will implement and market it. would this constitute prior art, if there was someone implementing it before publication? I don't know - I'm no lawyer. I'll see if I can ask one. (Your second point is also possible - the 2-4 year bit.)

As to the second point, "Look, it's physically impossible for a mechanical device..."

I never claimed anything different. If you look at my second "Important Update," I suggest exactly that - that there is some calibration feature, and point to the picture which has a knob on the side and numbers on the face as evidence of exactly that. So you are not pointing out anything I did not know, or did not already point out.

joshwaxman said...

based on this web site, it would seem that there would be no problem with disclosing:

"Or, an inventor may file a patent application and mark the invention
with a "patent pending" label. Few manufacturers will risk ripping off
an invention if they realize they may later be hit with a patent
infringement lawsuit if the patent is ultimately issued."

meaning that they can tell companies about it without having them sign a non-disclosure agreement.

joshwaxman said...

perhaps though, they fear that the patent application may be denied, and to cover themselves won't disclose details to anyone not signing a non-disclosure agreement.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone who has actually used this device out there? That would be someone whose opinion would be valid in this case.

Anonymous said...

I see that people have bought it and are using it: see below.


I can actually see a use for this item, and it seems well-made,and because it is a handsome product, I'm keeping it.

You'll have to decide for yourself whether you need one, though. Unless you're hopeless when it comes to directions, and live in the middle of Los Angeles and cannot see any landmarks because of the haze, you might just be better off occassionally consulting a regular compass, and figguring out which way to Yerushalayim by yourself.

It has the added advantage that you can also show your Muslim friends which way to turn. From this distance its the same direction to Mecca. Hotdog.

--- --- --- --- ---

At 3:42 AM, Anonymous said…

I also bought one, and I also agree that it is attractive and well-made. It really is a nice gift.
I personally never really believed that it "defied the laws of nature", but, it truly does appear to "defy the laws of nature"
In every sense, it looks like a high quality decorative brass compass, that is pointing in the direction of Jeruslaem.
Since I live in the U.S. I don't really need to do any adjustments.
I too am keeping mine.

At 4:51 PM, Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said…

Wow, that's pretty cool.

At 7:15 PM, Anonymous said…

I would buy it. Great gift.

joshwaxman said...


thanks for the comment.

I actually bought one myself as a Chanukka gift for my bro-in-law. I confirmed that it had the knob, as described. he hasn't really had opportunity to use it yet, but says it is is a cool thing to have.

Anonymous said...

I bought one for a frum friend who was doing deliveries for a meat retailer by truck throughout the South. He told me it came in handy when it was time to pray, especially on days when the determination of east by the sun's position was difficult, such as on very cloudy or overcast days, long summer days and short winter days when the sun position in relation to east is exagerated and when the mountains make finding the true horizon at sunset impossible. We checked it against a GPS for accuracy as opposed to using the sun position and it was more accurate. It is a nice-looking, practical item that makes a good, long-lasting bar mitzvah gift.

Unknown said...

Got the below quote from the TES site. Also - I have this compass and it works as advertised. Selling now for 39.95US$. I am not affiliated with these companies. Just a happy customer.

"The $49.95, non-electrical, non-computerized device - registered for an international patent - appears to defy nature, as the magnetic needle does not always point north. It is pre-calibrated for the continental US (excluding Miami, Hawaii and Alaska). But "log book" code numbers on the inside of the brass cover encompass virtually any other location on the globe. The user recalibrates by releasing the MPR bar, rotating the rim of the compass glass until the needle is opposite the relevant code number on the dial and sliding the MPR bar towards him after recalibration. The setting doesn't have to be changed until you travel to another city in a large country or a different small country. "


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