Thursday, January 14, 2016

History: The Year is 1709

I've uploaded year 1709 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Coldest Winter on Record and the Misplacement of Thermometers -- It is really, really cold. I talk about the location of weather stations and how that makes for inaccurate measurement.

Making Cheaper Cast-Iron Pans -- Using coke to smelt cast-iron has been around for many years but this year the process becomes commercially viable. I talk about the need of business to reduce labor costs.

A Hot Air Balloon on Paper but Not in the Air -- A Portuguese priest designs a hot air balloon but it flies like a bag of bricks.

The Coldest Winter on Record and the Misplacement of Thermometers

200 years ago, world climate teetered on the edge of the Little Ice Age but weather is a local condition. For better or worse, the local temperature can vary from the world average. For Europe, it has become worse... much, much worse. Rivers in Italy are frozen over so that carriages can cross without fear of falling through the ice. It is snowing in Rome. The Great Frost is killing off plants that would normally survive a winter although many of the trees are proving to be more freeze-tolerant than was previously assumed. That does not translate into a particularly good result... just better than expected. The standard thermometer (such as it is and where it is measured) hits its lowest point on December 30th. In London proper, it will hit about -15 degrees Celsius or +5 degrees Fahrenheit. An average low in the modern day London is 15 degrees Fahrenheit but modern temperatures are subject to asphalt and concrete heat retention and release. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Just so you know, the so-called "standard" thermometer that English scientists were using in 1709 was hardly a precise instrument. The fluid inside was a mixture of wine and urea. Also, they did not have a clue as to the best place (or even a mutually agreed place) to mount a weather thermometer. In the case of the Great Frost, one thermometer was located in the shade out of doors while the main thermometer in London was located inside an unheated room. They realized that they needed an entire weather picture so they logged the barometric pressure and wind direction. In the modern day such weather stations still suffer from misplacement. It has become somewhat of a joke where people take pictures of weather stations placed next to air conditioning outlets or located in parking lots where the asphalt traps the heat and radiates it next to the temperature gauge. My neighbor has his own weather station mounted on the roof of his house... just above his chimney where the rising heat from the roof in the summer and the fireplace in the winter pushes the temperature higher than any objective standard would accept if they knew where the weather station was located. [7]

Making Cheaper Cast-Iron Pans

Blast furnaces use charcoal to smelt iron these days. It is an expensive process requiring labor to cut down trees and then making the charcoal in fire pits covered with dirt and twigs. Coke at this time is made in a similar manner but it uses coal covered in coke dust. Its production is less labor-intensive and produces useful by-products such as coal-gas for lighting street lamps and coal-tar for paving roads. However, these by-products won't come into general use for many years yet. Patents for using coke as part of the smelting process have been around for years but Abraham Darby has made the process commercially viable in England. In fact he will make cast-iron considerably cheaper and he will use this cheaper process to produce cast-iron pots and pans. The higher coke production will also force a lot of charcoal-makers to find a different line of work. [8] [9]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
It is amazing how many people (especially socialists) do not understand the fundamental need for business to reduce costs through innovation and/or reduced labor costs. Paying people to work just to give them a paycheck is NOT the goal of business. The goal is to make a profit for the investors. Business is not a charity, but it can do good things for a community within limits. For example, many years ago a banana company came to an especially poor region of Panama and encouraged the farmers to grow bananas for them. It was a good deal for the poor people because a little extra money went a long way there. The company got bananas cheap due to cheap labor so the company built schools, low-cost housing, and all the bananas they could eat... until a union came in and called for a strike. It became cheaper for the company to take its business elsewhere so it did. The sudden loss of income caused a famine. The government provided monetary aid. The union bosses absconded with the funds. The people of the region were never rich, but there was a time when they had better. Now it is all gone. [10]

A Hot Air Balloon on Paper but Not in the Air

A Portuguese priest offers a proposal to the King of Portugal to design an airship that looks suspiciously like a hot air balloon. The priest will come up with a beautiful design... beautiful in the sense that it looks pretty on paper... but it won't fly. He will work on improvements to the design but his efforts will be cut short when he comes under the scrutiny of the Inquisition. He will escape to Spain and die there of a fever in 1724. [11]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The priest's name is a mouthful. You can look it up in the footnotes. The reason his failed balloon design comes up at all is that when a successful manned-flight of a hot air balloon took place in Paris in 1783, Portugal suddenly remembered their inventive priest and laid claim to a brief flight by the priest in 1720. Personally, I think they were full of hot air. Looking at the design, I could make a better manned-flight jumping off a roof holding a bag of bricks.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1709, Wikipedia.

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