The three watches

Saturday, 26 January, Year 11 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Consider this quote :

For when Sir John Narborough, in the year 1670, wintered in Port St. Julian, on the coast of Patagonia, Capt. John Wood, then his lieutenant, and an approved artist in sea affairs, did observe the beginning of an eclipse of the moon, Sept. 18ⅤO stil. vet. at just 8 night; and the same beginning was observ'd by M. Hovellius at Dantzick at 14h 22'; whence Port St. Julian is more westerly than Dantzick 6h 22', or than London 5h 6, that is 76 ½ Gr.

The text goes on to describe how the Falklands were discovered (and by whom), but that doesn't interest us here. Rather, we're establishing that in point of fact a watch was a most important accessory in the age of sail (which is to say, three centuries, from early 1500s to late 1700s, thirty decades, sixty five-year plans -- in a word, plenty of time).

If we could venture an illustration, the watch of this time was the direct equivalent of the knight's sword in years prior : one item worth more than a whole family of peonsi ; so much more, in factii, that most knights wouldn't have traded their tried and trusted sword for a random family (which is to say, for a shot at the average).

Watches were similarily expensiveiii, and the pean they attached to their lucky owner similarly, if not moreso coveted. What is to be said of you "and an approved artist in sea affairs" than the very point of manly existence, the whole enchilada, complete and entire ; exactly the same as such accolades as might have enjoyed Gawain or whoever -- only moresoiv besides!

We can agree then, that watches were not only hard to make but in great demand because of their great utility, and therefore, expensive. Now... what are you missing ?

While you're pondering what you might be missing, consider this other quote :

As easy and streamlined as this process is for the inner city guy with no other resources, it is that much harder for anyone with a driveway. It isn't for you. I know this because, by the way you phrased your question, do not own a gun and are not likely to set your town on fire when your team wins/loses. I realize in your case you're filing a disability claim with an employer, but the idea is the same: you did work. How do you show you now can't work? It would have been easier to "prove" you can't work if you never worked. That's SSI.

Truth be told, this is how you think, is it not ? In order for you to believe a woman's not an utter dog of a mercenary whore, perfectly ready and perfectly willing to bend over and take cock right across the restaurant table in exchange for the valuable consideration of a cigarette or something, she must show you...

She must show you what ? What is it that she must show you ?

That she's a virgin, isn't that right ? In order for you to believe she's not the omniwhore, she has to satisfy the substitute test of being the Virgin Mary herself!

That's the "logic of the system" : religious protestantism through and through. In order for them to have become disabled they must show they were never able, that's the standard. And it takes you readily (but, and that's the important part, disavowedlyv) into all sorts of rank idiocies, inenarrable crap on the level of "in order to be a safe driver she must show she's never driven" and so on. What better way to ensure a sane relationship with alcohol in an adult's life than to make a huge deal of it for the first two decades, and go out of your way to ensure his first introduction is too-late binge drinking ?

This is why you're missing the thing you're missing, above. And you will go right on missing it, too. For three centuries, if need be, you'll go right on missing it. I buttress this wild claim of mine against the strong wall of history : for those three fucking centuries during which they tried and toiled and saved and worked and took fucking years at a time to go on the sea and measure & explore things, in all of that fucking time never once, never once, NOT EVER ONCE did it occur to them, as it doesn't occur to you right now, that in point of fact three watches bought for a cost of ten pounds each are a better instrument together than a hundred pound watch could ever hope to be.

But you don't want to see that it makes no sense to have a wife. So much and so deeply and so dedicatedly do you not want to see this, that it was perfectly acceptable (and even somewhat common) for an ESLtard going about the field in the 1200s to carry three swords -- because it was a matter of certain fact that he couldn't possibly use more than one at a time ; yet it was unheard of to carry multiple watches three centuries later. I do not mean merely uncommon -- it was outright ridiculous.

Why ? Come to think of it, what do you expect is the social function of ridicule ? Has it ever occured to you that's what you do when someone does things that contradict "the world you wish to see" ?

  1. Defined as one productive older female and a couple or more younger ones not yet tested, plus whatever other eunuchs "apprentices" came with the package. []
  2. Swords were exceedingly expensive in medieval times, because they were made by blacksmiths out of rare materials.

    Consider the matter in its proper light : subsistence agriculture as practiced early 1100s to late 1400s required pretty much "all hands on deck", so to speak. A group of adults could perhaps produce enough surplus to raise enough children as to replenish the group itself ; but only rarely and occasionally could they produce enough surplus to actually permit adults occupations besides agriculture itself.

    Meanwhile a blacksmith is an adult who occupied himself his entire life to date, and, further, reasonably expects to continue occupying himself for the foreseable future, in the working of metals. If it's not directly obvious how expensive that "reasonably expects" part is, talk to alf, or I guess review the history of "transition economies" in the lands of the Warsaw pact ; but even in the blind-to-foresight case what's required is perdurant sufficient abundence, because if there's a famine just as your future blacksmith turns 17 you just lost a few man-food-years and still didn't get the blacksmith.

    So in this sense, the per-capita value of a regulation blacksmith (not that they had the GoST yet, but whatever) is whatever the cost of ~insurance~ for forty or so ~consecutive~ years of man-food are for him. Leaving aside the issue as a commercial matter, because evidently the markets of the time weren't nearly developed enough to be capable of meaningfully pricing such a thing (hence the very pronounced need for kingly allocations), the proposition still stands that the time-cost of blacksmith exceeds the time-cost of peon family, and by a hefty margin at that -- on the face of things perfectly hefty enough to make the trade of (the time it takes a blacksmith to make one sword) for (an entire family outright) a bad deal.

    Consider besides how we've not even talked of the problems iron poses -- it has to be dug up and transported long distances, which yes can all be done by unskilled labour (therefore not running into the insurance problems above) but nevertheless, it's a lot of damned work, what. []

  3. Because unlike swords, at least as far as anyone knew back then, they require an entirely new dimension : they must be precise. A sword is just a hunk of metal. Notwithstanding complex considerations of metal lattice organisation, a good sword can readily be made through the cheapest process there is -- that of making a hundred, or ten thousand, or however many bad swords. Much more importantly -- there's not properly speaking such a thing as a good or bad sword -- slightly bad swords still have a market value ; whereas a time keeping instrument that's 1% inaccurate is just as uselessly inaccurate as another time keeping instrument that's 5% or 15% inaccurate. There's no prize for getting it almost-right in watchmaking, a point brought most painfully to the fore by sea voyages.

    Yes the country squire of old may go to the faire besplendently bedecked in grandfather's (cracked, and therefore practically useless) greatsword, which, from a distance and for the needs of the faire maidens looks entirely "just as good" as a real sword ; and similarily his great-grandson the respectable merchant may go to "The City" wearing a clunker of a timepiece that works "good enough 'till closing time", especially if carefully adjusted by the Big Ben every single blessed morning (what, you never realised before why tower clocks were needed ?). Nevertheless, out there by the desolate coast of Patagon, there's no one to give you the time.

    In a sense, so to speak, the sword's moved by the hand, whereas the clock has to move by itself -- a dextrous user can not in any manner help the watch, even if historically he could considerably bless and round the present shortcomings of any sword.

    Robotics, amirite ? []

  4. Ironically, the moreso will go along the lines of "not only strong -- also smart" notwithstanding the contrarity of reality : the watch releases the owner from any need for smarts by being (within a limit and to a degree) smart for him, whereas the sword requires in its handling all that smart it can't, by itself, provide! []
  5. Meaning, you pretend to not know about it, and you make up inane shit so as not to have to confront the plain fact that you knew about it all along. []
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34 Responses

  1. > three watches bought for a cost of ten pounds each are a better instrument together than a hundred pound watch

    This, given the painful history of the (temperature-invariant) chronometer, is a howler.

    Try the experiment yourself, with as many as you like (though you may have some difficulty sourcing a period-type uncompensated clock) -- they'll drift together.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    Not like the 100 pound piece was going to be compensated, either.

    Admitting the better, more expensive watch adds error epsilon and the crappier, cheaper watch adds error epsilon plus error delta, the reduction of delta through redundancy is always above the increase of cost at the left side of the graph.

  3. Mno. It was a "quantity has a quality all its own" case, like e.g. 16 M-R shots vs. 10. Harrison's clock made reasonably deterministic navigation possible, and the preceding attempts -- did not.

    I expect we will read the actual chronicle of this when nicoleci gets to that decade.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    It is not here contemplated of "how to pull ourselves by breeches to the moon". At issue isn't "how to make a good clock out of a bunch of tin cans".

    At issue is how to spend such resources as we have. It's entirely indifferent how utterly bad the 100 pound watch actually was ; all that matter is that at any given time a clock as there exists is the clock as there exists, notwithstanding how you or anyone else would've made a better one or wouldn't stoop to use this one or so forth.

  5. For redundancy to work (whether using N clocks, or RNGs, or any other precision instrument) the error has to be ~uncorrelated~. If all N clocks run fast when the sun shines and slow when cold wind blows, you end up with drift, regardless of value of N.

    FWIW the "multiple clocks" thing was tried during Brit "age of sail", as was "N clocks and stars", and "9000" various other hacks with "go to war with army you have, not wish you had."

    In re "how to spend the resource you have", one possible way is to spend'em is to try and "replace two strong oxen with 1024 chickens" -- sometimes this even works. And sometimes not, and you have to actually get the oxen somewhere. (And if can't afford -- then better be able to afford to lose ships.)

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    It's not strictly speaking that the error has to be uncorrelated. The error has to either be uncorrelated between the cheap watches, or else equally correlated within the entire field, including the expensive watch.

    Events that while correlated nevertheless affect equally your test groups and the witness group can properly be said to ~not even exist~ (in the limited context of your experiment as designed, of course).

  7. While this formulation isn't wrong per se, the "witness group" part of your system is the rock that your boat runs aground on when your N clocks drift; and the people waiting for the cargo that never comes, having gone to "Davy Jones locker".

    A very unsatisfying, IMHO, effective meaning of "said to not even exist."

  8. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    Nah, the witness group is the ~100 pound watch~. That's what's said, that if you have a hundy, it is a better use of your money to buy three 10 l. watches instead and drink the remainder (while learning how to debias).

    The article doesn't say "you could make a good watch", or a "useful watch". It says ~better~, as in the relative concept.

    Now, all this said I readily grant that should the year be rather in the 1760s, any use of money to buy watches ~other~ than from John Jefferys and ordered otherwise than as "make me a watch like Harrison's" is a strict waste of money ; in which sense perhaps my broadly drawn "three centuries" may suffer some decades' adjustment on the ends. Or to again quote,

    From these concurrent testimonies, wanting better, I adventured to fix the longitude of this coast as I have done; and I can by no means grant an error of 10 degrees to be possible in it, though perhaps it may need some smaller correction.

  9. Even better quote

    "I'm not trying to outrun the lion. I'm trying to outrun you."

  10. I'll readily admit that I assumed the year is exactly in 1760s, when reading this piece.

    If the 100 doesn't actually buy you "vessel navigates deterministically and gets to other end of the pond, unless struck by lightning" vs. the 3 x 10, then properly speaking you have a "crapple i-watch", or any other instance of Naggum's "imponade".

    Determining how to spend the clock 100 budget is entirely, as I see it, part of the engineering that goes into equipping the vessel -- every bit as much as where to put the masts, how tall, etc.

  11. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    Except for the part where they had enough sense to put in three masts, but did not have enough sense to carry about three clocks in a box.

    Wouldn't you expect the actual object, as a cultural reference, to be the threeclockbox, in a sane world ? With little etchings explaining how to get the time out of the mess on the side and whatnot ?

    "A Rake's Progress", that they can etch. A Harem's Supremacy, oy lordy, god forbid.

  12. They ~did~ try the "N clocks" thing, though. It does -- for the thermal reason described upthread -- very little, for precision (adds redundancy if 1 breaks down, but that's it.)

  13. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    It seems to me rather an argument towards my case, here, that "they knew of it -- it simply didn't catch on".

    Using a clock at all was rare in the time of brave sir Chrysagon, yet some weirdos at some point, coming up with it, their usage spread.

    Not so for the box of three watches, and the scholar's stuck saying why. Why ?

    "It's just how it happens to have fallen" is not particularly intelligent, or useful an answer ; much in the vein of the other "then properly speaking you have a "crapple i-watch", or any other instance of Naggum's "imponade"." bit -- specifically, sinful and dirty as she might've been, twas nevertheless your grandmother that spawned your mother ; and similarily the better watches come out of the worse ones and the hour nine and ten from the previous quarter to eight and so following.

    Natura non facit saltus is, in the end, the fundamental statement of phenomenological continuity. Do you dispute this basis ?

  14. Items that aren't plainly +ev, are liable to "not catch on", this is not a mega-puzzler IMHO.

    Natura non facit saltus -- but Harrisons do, occasionally. And not only him, but likewise the predecessors who refined clock escapement to the point where a mechanical clock even began to seem like something you could effectively "dead reckon" with.

    AFAIK everybody who could afford to do so, carried spares, pre- and post-Harrison, and not only of chronometer but of near-everything else. (Until electronic resonator, temp-compensated chronometer remained a costly enough item that some - e.g. early Sov. fleet -- could not afford >1 per vessel.)

  15. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    Yet I can scarcely see how "spend a third the money for slightly better results" aren't plainly +ev.

    There's a difference, fundamental and all-important, between the spare mistress, to be used on the sly whenever the wife's "indisposed", and the harem.

    So yes, they "caried spares", I am aware. This circumstance also seems to me to rather argue for my stance.

  16. Incidentally, nobody cancelled to this day the basic problem of "where do I buy the most clock for the buck".

    Quartz resonators (as used in FG, PC, elsewhere) cost about fiddycents, but even 9000 of'em does not replace caesium fountain (I've tried.) You can get from the stock ~50ppm drift to ~1-2 with a heater, but will not approach the ~ppb~ figure of the $50K fountain. (And if it's simply because everybody involved to date is a dolt, and you know how to entirely replace the "strong caesium ox with 1024 quartz chickens", in the applications where the difference in fact matters -- don't hesitate to say...)

  17. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    Actually, the solution should be obvious if at all available.

    Have you ~actually~ tried an assemblage of (to keep with the article) 3`000 distinct quartz resonators ? Do you have anywhere a list of times/counts/whatever sampled from them through whatever (described) method ?

    My expectation would be that even fewer than that figure would suffice, in a very theoretical, "spherical chicken in vacuum" sense. I recall reading somewhere the run of the mill Timex 20 dollar pieces being in the range of 8e-10, which is to say sub ppm -- and most of it being the motor rather than the tiny quarz fork. Similarly here, the problems will likely arise in readings, which is to say it's comparatively easier to display the situation of the atomic clock than it is to collate and process the readings of thousands of other pieces.

    In short, the matter has little to do with "everyone" being a dolt today, chiefly because today there's no more everyones nor have there been for many years, and secondarily because today's not 1699, what.

  18. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    Actually, thinking about this :

    1. Should you be able to connect quartz resonators to accumulators (even 8 bit ones could conceivably suffice) such that an oscillation results in an increment with the least possible loss or uncertain delay ;

    2. And should you design a 1`000-term CRC-like function (like the item you successfully proposed for the Eulora communications protocol) ;

    3. And should you then arrange the accumulators into a polynomial as described at 2, using the Neumann stochastic multiplier you yourself described in the log ; then

    4. It is entirely possible you converge on a value of time more accurate than any atomic clock can provide.

  19. Tried, at one point, when was younger and couldn't be arsed to "book-larnin'", with 32. You get measurably ~worse~ timing, because not only is thermal drift -- your chief enemy -- common to all of the "N chickens", but you've also now built a multiheaded antenna to pick up Johnson noise and any stray RF (the portion of which which comes from the resonators themselves, you cannot shield away.)

    The idea is an elementary "из говна пулю не слепишь" fail.

  20. To add some spice to this thread:

    Above is the vendor's spec for the Epson CMOS 14.7456MHz resonator which appears on FG board (all editions). We have the "premium" 25ppm one. Last I knew, the Chinese wristwatches were not in the ballpark.

  21. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 27 January 2019

    If you say, I believe ; though it is entirely possible that your woes are rather due to the arrangement, and properly made on-die recipe of #18 above would in fact deliver something.

    Consider -- it should be possible to measure ~the clock speed~. If that is indeed possible, resolutions to the level of 14.7456MHz would imply 60 ppb accuracy or thereabouts (ie, one in 14`745`600 portions per second).

    If it is ~not~ possible to measure the frequency, it is indeed dubious what the fuck is even meant by "resonator" at all.

  22. They're simply tuning forks, exactly like you'd use for piano. Merely smaller / photo-etched, and piezo-pumped. Which is where the night creeps in, piezo effect is temperature-sensitive, and the "fork" is a physical object, subj. to friction, fatigue, etc.

    The basic observation upstack, before it gets lost , was that "multi-chicken" harness only wins if the harness mechanism per se actually subtracts more noise than it adds; and where the noise is not common-mode. There is no mathematical "cheat" against thermodynamics ( or e.g. Feynman's ratchet , which "chicken clock" is rather similar to, would work. )

  23. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 27 January 2019

    Sure, in general speaking there's no cheat against thermodynamics.

  24. The other interesting IMHO thing about clocks, is that virtually every stateful device one might build is in fact a (poor) clock -- whether intentional or not. In exactly the same way that every radio receiver is also a (poor) RNG.

    Consider the very same accumulator from #18 -- the propagation time of the gates is temperature-dependent. (If this were not the case, one could build a satisfying clock out of a single NOT gate with its head connected to its arse through a reasonably long wire. However this gives a terrifyingly inconsistent pulse, even in very short term, and even in comparison to the cheapest Chinese quartz. I initially designed FG without a quartz, with just such a feedback gate inside the CPLD -- but this variant couldn't keep the 115200 baud within spec even for couple of minute after powerup...)

    The "secret" is that when you build oscillator out of object that has mass, the larger the mass, the more temperature-sensitive will be the oscillation (wiping out precision) and the more indeterminate the period (wiping out accuracy.) This is why folks end up shelling out for the cesium thing, where the "moving part" is an electron.

  25. Interesting that asciilifeform is the one to protest so much.

  26. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 27 January 2019

    @Stanislav Datskovskiy The first is no great contention ; and also why we find ourselves constantly trying to reduce the ample piles of pointlessly stateful devices every tard has been vomiting upon the world ever since that dull September 1993. It's very expensive to upkeep this great many ill-shaped and malfunctioning clocks.

    The second's actually a very elegant way of explaining things, and at the scales discussed I readily agree.

    @nicoleci Interesting I guess, in no case coincidental. Nor is it coincidental that his argument upon examination sums up to a

    this wife is not merely a wife ; she is outright a shard of the holy spirit

    a direct bridge over the centuries to

    The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering silmite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, bla bla bla

    Wrought entirely of special (if plebeian) snowflakes as all that may be, nevertheless in cold hard fact women are objects, just like any other objects, and entirely as untouched by metaphysical brilliance or any sort of divine pneumatics as any province, ewe, weir or set of binoculars.

    A horse is a horse, yet how's Fat Frumos to go to war on one that neither talks nor eats jaratec ? Tales are not merely told, you see, but believed, which belief is what builds nations. Take "We Waz Kangz!" or whatever you will take -- it will be just as ridiculous, but inasmuch as a "Nation of Africa" can even in principle begin to exist, the tall tale'll have to be just as disavowedly believed.

  27. > objects, just like any other objects

    For bonus lulz, see also "we have no irreplaceables here"(tm)(r)(Stalin). Who ended up, quite arguably, refuting the statement when finally gave up the ghost, without anything like a replacement turning up...

  28. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 27 January 2019

    Funny how absurdly funnily that works, huh!

  29. @nicoleci FWIW my disagreement is strictly and narrowly in re: the clocks item (having delved rather deeply into oscillator-flavoured crackpottery with own hands..)

    Wife, horse, etc. indeed replaceable -- but more practically with other wives, other horses, rather than 1e6 cockroaches.

  30. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 27 January 2019

    I thought your disagreement was strictly with the "1760s and onwards" slice of the "from early 1500s to late 1700s" domain, and brought on the grounds of having done a lot of reading on that specific part of it (and no great reading on the others, leaving it thus to shine out incommensurately).

  31. @Mircea Popescu AFAIK the sub-tower-sized clock was largely an ornament in the contemplated bottom slice.

    You are free to think that my conclusion came from a failure to RTFM, if you prefer; but this ain't so.

  32. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 27 January 2019

    If it ain't so, you'll have to explain why you seem to think Peter Henlein lived in the 1700s rather than the 1500s.

  33. @Mircea Popescu Henlein's orb ~= ipnoje. Ornament.

  34. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 27 January 2019

    In point of fact, the common cultural artefact labeled "pocketwatch" was in common use since about the 1550s, when they came up with screws and therefore started making them flat. Before that they were more spherical, yes, but certainly in common enough use.

    To summarize for the RTFM-avoidant, consider that relatively fewer people had ever been on the sea by 1700 than had touched a pocket watch by 1600.

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