[LMB] OT: Outdating measurements...

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Tue Jul 7 03:38:39 BST 2009

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Greg Hennessy" <greg.hennessy at cox.net>
To: "Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold." 
<lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>
Sent: Monday, July 06, 2009 9:12 PM
Subject: Re: [LMB] OT: Outdating measurements...

>> Snopes is a bit snarky about this, as usual.  They display a
>> "know-it-all" attitude about the subject.  (I find it easy to recognize
>> know-it-alls, because I am one myself.)  It isn't so much of a debunking
>> as it is a "let's trivialize this non-trivial (but uninteresting) 
>> subject."
>> I would like to ask a boon of the list.  Please use snopes as a
>> fall-back position, for when you can't find any other source.
> If you would prefer language such as "Snopes disputes this" rather than 
> "Snopes
> debunks this", I would have no objection. However, Snopes does prove 
> helpful in
> my view at shooting down many things that get passed around via email. And 
> it
> has the advantage of being reasonably quick to find.
> I know a bit about how rail gauge varied enough to influence things like 
> how the
> US Civil war was fought, and so I know that it isn't true that the
> reason we have a gauge of 4 ft 8.5 inches is that is the exact width of
> Roman War chariots. But I can't expect everyone to know that, and at least
> Snopes has a decent discussion. Obviously Snopes isn't a peer reviewed 
> source,
> but I'm not expecting it to be used as such.

One thing that giant fires and big earthquakes were useful for was urban 
renewal--looking at the Boston streets, one had to redo both the buildings 
AND the streets at the time same, to change the geometry in the 
city--otherwise, the buildings follow the streets, and the streets can't 
move because there are buildings in the way.  Until a disaster takes down a 
large area, getting the property occupiers to all relinquisht their property 
for razing and agreeing to eviction is extremely difficult.

Yes, different gauges of rails exist, but -conservatism- in design means 
that as with city street which get set and follow paths trod centuries 
earlier, the path of, er, least resistance, is to repeat what's been done 
before... just look at the Internet protocols, which lack error detection 
and forward error correction in the encoding--things which have been part of 
the technical knowledge base since the 1970s but are NOT used on the 
Internet as transmission protocol for data packets intrinisically--and lack 
encoding to make it less trivial for spammers and computer infection 
spreaders and and identity spoofer and data thieves etc., to pursue their 
noxious pastimes...  because the ARPAnet was a lab experiment that 
was -there- and never got shutdown, it got glommed onto and -grew-... it's 
an escaped lab experiment never intended to be the basis for commercial 
anything, it was a LAB EXPERIMENT, one that got -loose- and makes kudzu look 
contained.   There are lots better ways of encoding data for transmission 
delivery than TCP/IP, but TCP/IP is what got -in- and took over....  sigh. 

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