From: Ship, Howard (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Oct 24 2000 - 10:01:33 PDT
Yes, but the point of all that was that Columbus was dead wrong, had no
knowledge of the American continents and thought he had reached Asia, thus
calling the Native Americans "Indians".
If American didn't exist, he would have failed.
Isabella was the smart one, she invested a relatively small amount of money,
took no personal risk, and earned a huge reward. She didn't get the trade
route to Asia she was expecting, but history shows she did OK anyway.
From: Dave Long [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, October 24, 2000 1:04 PM
Subject: dot columbus
I'd mentioned a case for rational risk seeking,
but it appears that history gives us some pretty
famous (anecdotal) evidence for value from even
*irrational* risk seeking.
From Heilbron, _Geometry Civilized_:
> [Posidonius'] value of 180 000 stades ... has had more
> profound consequences than any other geometrical error
> ever committed. Columbus made decisive use of it in
> arguing the practicability of his proposed voyage ...
> [He] argued his case before learned geometers and
> geographers who knew the world is round. They were
> charged to decide whether the proposed voyage over
> the immense ocean in small wooden ships had a chance
> of success. They did not worry that the ships might
> fall off the edge of a flat earth but that they might
> sink from rotting timbers or that the crews might
> die from thirst or hunger. ... [He] calculated he
> could do it in 30 days. The experts laughed at him.
> Relying on Ptolemy, discounting Polo, and preferring
> Erathosthenes (whose result had been confirmed by
> more recent measurements), they would have calculated
> the gap at close to its true value of 12 000 miles.
> No sailing ship of Columbus' time could have crossed
> so immense an expanse of ocean. ... But Isabella
> ... decided to take the modest risk of underwriting
> part of the project. ... [Columbus] set forth from
> the Canaries and, 33 days out, he struck land almost
> exactly where he had expected ...
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