Critical Thinking and Watchmaking

DeweyC

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Many of the best watchmakers I have known also thought up better ways or tools to get the job done. The histories of famous watchmakers like Kullberg, Poole, Frodsham and yes, Hamilton (you know I just had to throw them in there), reveal many examples where they created new approaches rather than rely on how others had or were doing it.

Critical thinking.

This came to mind because I am reading up on European history. I just read a chapter on the Battle of Hastings.

The author reports that the battle went on "for 12 hours from dawn to dusk" in late October.

Can you spot the discrepancy in this statement?

When reading the horological literature it is important to think things through in terms of physics, horological theory and even physical reality. I have read things in books published by a famous author that simply could not work. When asked, he said he never tried it out but it seemed like a good idea. Besides, he was paid by the word.

We should be mindful that the facts of 1930 are not the facts of today. In private correspondence with Ben Hummel (Ernest Drescher's primary assistant), I learned that as late as 1948 there was no known method for calculating the mainspring needed to power a new watch caliber. It had to be done by trial and error.

One of my most used books is Von Bertele's work on chronometers. His text is superb. One of the best accounts of Guillaume's research and his Nobel Prize for Elinvar. But Von Bertele's captions are unreliable (look at the caption for the unmounted M22). After finding a couple I knew to be incorrect, I determined that I could not rely upon his captions for information on pieces I did not know. I was told, (I think by Whitney; but someone that well informed) that Von Bertele had to rely on collectors for the captions. Makes sense, but it underscores the need to calibrate what you are reading with your prior knowledge.

Authors have been known to repeat as fact errors and incorrect analyses of past authors. Of course, this is true in any professional literature, but it seems to be more of a problem in horology because the authors are really amateur researchers (at least in the USA). The compensation for an article in AWI Horological TImes was $50 in the 1990s. The staff had to beg for articles (so you can figure what they let slide so as not to discourage). The Bulletin has always relied on volunteer authors but for at least the last 30 years or so it has applied decent editorial control what is published. But sometimes those authors rely on previously published articles as a reference when in fact those articles contain incorrect information.

Going back to the Battle of Hastings, there is no such thing as a 12 hour late October day in Europe (north of Switz), most of which is much further north than New York city. That account is discrepant with physical reality.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Dewey,

Even in peer-reviewed journals such as AH and HJ, things can slip through the net!

Regards,

Graham
 
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DeweyC

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Hi Dewey,

Even in peer-reviewed journals such as AH and HJ, things can slip through the net!

Regards,

Graham
Then we have the case of SIR Cyril Burt who published the twin studies that addressed the nature vs. nurture studies and was Knighted for that work. It was only after he died that we learned it was all "thought" experiments and no data were ever collected.

Of course, the substance abuse literature in the US journals is rife with falsified data. So it goes.
 

Chris Radek

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In the context of the middle ages, it makes sense that a dawn to dusk battle was 12 hours long, no matter the season. Depending on who wrote this statement, and when, and which religious rules they lived under, it may be a mistake to interpret it according to our modern understanding of "hour" as measured by clocks etc.

I think this reinforces your point that the facts of 1930 are not the facts of today: it is even more so when considering the facts of 1066. You need both critical thinking and knowledge of the context.
 

DeweyC

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In the context of the middle ages, it makes sense that a dawn to dusk battle was 12 hours long, no matter the season. Depending on who wrote this statement, and when, and which religious rules they lived under, it may be a mistake to interpret it according to our modern understanding of "hour" as measured by clocks etc.

I think this reinforces your point that the facts of 1930 are not the facts of today: it is even more so when considering the facts of 1066. You need both critical thinking and knowledge of the context.
Chris,

You do realize that in London, at that time of year there are only 10 hours between dawn and dusk? The earth's axis has not changed all that much in 800 years.

And this is an author writing in the 20th century. It is not an account contemporary to the actual battle.
 

Marv

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I think Chris's interpretation is probably most likely.

Additionally, there is a difference between actual sunrise and sunset and civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight. I would suspect that fighting continues until its too dark to continue.

— Just critically thinking. :)
 

DeweyC

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I think Chris's interpretation is probably most likely.

Additionally, there is a difference between actual sunrise and sunset and civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight. I would suspect that fighting continues until its too dark to continue.

— Just critically thinking. :)
If an author does not qualify his/her terms, the rules of grammatical construction (yes, they are real) are to use the most commonly accepted meaning. Your case might have weight if this history had been written by a contemporary historian, rather than one in the 20th century.

You seem to be inserting words into the author's mouth with your offered qualifications.

Personally, I take an author to mean exactly what he said. Dawn and dusk, unqualified, mean the commonly accepted definitions; sunrise and sunset.

But, is that really what interests you most about my post? Nothing about the fragility of what has been written in the horological literature?
 

karlmansson

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If an author does not qualify his/her terms, the rules of grammatical construction (yes, they are real) are to use the most commonly accepted meaning. Your case might have weight if this history had been written by a contemporary historian, rather than one in the 20th century.

You seem to be inserting words into the author's mouth with your offered qualifications.

Personally, I take an author to mean exactly what he said. Dawn and dusk, unqualified, mean the commonly accepted definitions; sunrise and sunset.

But, is that really what interests you most about my post? Nothing about the fragility of what has been written in the horological literature?
In a way, isn't this a little bit what you are trying to bring across though Dewey? That without knowing and understanding the context, the content of the literature needs to be treated sceptically?

This doesn't apply to you example though as you are referring to Europe, but definitions matter a great deal for understanding context. The definition of an "hour" has varied greatly as well for instance: What is a Traditional Japanese Clock (Wadokei)? | THE SEIKO MUSEUM GINZA
 
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DeweyC

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In a way, isn't this a little bit what you are trying to bring across though Dewey? That without knowing and understanding the context, the content of the literature needs to be treated sceptically?

This doesn't apply to you example though as you are referring to Europe, but definitions matter a great deal for understanding context. The definition of an "hour" has varied greatly as well for instance: What is a Traditional Japanese Clock (Wadokei)? | THE SEIKO MUSEUM GINZA
Karl,

I hadn't thought of it that way, but it may well. To follow what I think is your point, had the author been writing from the time of the Battle of Hastings, then we would need to know the common meaning of dawn to dusk in that period.

But since the author was writing in modern times (and quoting no one), it is understood he is using modern vernacular.

In total, yes. I agree literature/historical accounts need to be read in the context of the period within which they were written. It is one of the reasons I am reading a lot of history; particularly Euorpean history. Just to be able to understand who we flowed from gather/hunters to farmers and merchants; how the local strong man yielded to communal law; the role of Charlemagne in the development of written language.

It all helps in understanding the world as it exists today. You cannot understand the rise of Hitler without understanding the Austrian Empire. It is a flowing stream.

It is also why I am fascinated by multilingual such as yourself I know such folk actually think in the various languages and I get that some things just cannot be translated. How that impacts thinking is a wonder to me.
 
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svenedin

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DeweyC I think you raise some very important points. I am not sufficiently educated in the history of horology to follow the points you make specifically to that but I see no reason for horology to be significantly different to any other academic discipline. In my own field of medicine there have been many cases of shameful publications; of cherry-picked data to support a (subsequently disproved) hypothesis, of repeated citing of erroneous material etc. Some of this is laziness and sloppiness, some is unintentional human error and some is just the darker side of human nature. It is not sufficient for a reader to rely on peer or editorial review but rather the reader must develop their own skills of critical appraisal whether reading a newspaper, a journal or a text book.

Stephen
 
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Marv

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DeweyC I think you raise some very important points. I am not sufficiently educated in the history of horology to follow the points you make specifically to that but I see no reason for horology to be significantly different to any other academic discipline. In my own field of medicine there have been many cases of shameful publications; of cherry-picked data to support a (subsequently disproved) hypothesis, of repeated citing of erroneous material etc...

Stephen
Langmuir's pathological science syndrome. :)
 

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