clocks & clues

From: Dave Long (
Date: Mon Apr 09 2001 - 12:22:15 PDT

> The town's fascination with cartography goes
> back at least as far as the 14th century, when a fantastically painted
> astronomical clock was installed in the Lund cathedral to track the sun
> and the moon through the zodiac, marking noon and 3 pm with a blast of
> trumpets and a procession of mechanical Wise Men toward the Virgin Mary.
> It still keeps good time.

Clocks may have been the medieval equivalent of VR.
Pacey's _Technology in World Civilization_ (a good
book for Braudel fans) mentions the fancy Islamic
and Chinese clocks from circa 1000:

> One idea behind all these inventions was the dream that if one could
> make a clock or other instrument that exactly reproduced the motions of
> the sun and the planets, one would capture something of their essence.
> At a time when many people believed in astrological forces emanating
> from the planets, this was a powerful concept. But as Omar Khayyam
> commented with characteristic scepticism, "Nobody has mastered the
> wheel of the firmament."

:: :: :: ::

> Welcome to the new old scarcity: people with a clue.

What if the good is the enemy of the barely usable?
Reliance on cluefulness goes against the version of
Gresham's Law one gets by substituting ability for
finance. Pacey, again:

> But there was a paradox in all this, because even in the late
> nineteenth century the superior production equipment of Europe
> was being used to produce poorer quality textiles, paper and other
> products than could be made in Asia.


Bonus Bacon Bits
> [2] Check out Bacon's _Great Instauration_ for an
> appeal to rationality, an early extropianism,
> and an influence on the starting scientists.

Bacon was even a bit of a headfreezer*, according
to Durant:

> In March 1626, while riding from London to Highgate, and turning
> over the question in his mind how far flesh might be preserved from
> putrefaction by being covered with snow, he resolved to put the matter
> to a test at once. Stopping off at a cottage, he bought a fowl,
> killed it, and stuffed it with snow. While he was doing this he
> was seized with chills and weakness; and finding himself too ill to
> ride back to town, he gave directions that he should be taken to the
> nearby home of Lord Arundel, where he took to bed. He did not yet
> resign life; he wrote cheerfully that "the experiment ... succeeded
> excellently well." But it was his last.

*Not the earliest headfreezer by a long shot; the
Egyptians' mummification counts if one is willing
to grant hearttanning headfreezing's place.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Apr 29 2001 - 20:25:36 PDT