Search This Blog

23 May 2008

Fooey, it won't wiggle anymore / Bob's Unhealthy Love for Crazy Old Machines

Yeah yeah, click, gets bigger.

Rats, the wiggle.gif won't wiggle anymore, not here, not on the website I filched it from. Here's 2 still photos of the same wharf at high and low tides. The Bay of Fundy claims the world's greatest tide height differences.

I am sorry to report that standing on the shore watching the tide go out and come in does not compare favorably as a tourist attraction with Niagara Falls.

Not too long ago, I think Abbas
asked for a little more information about some crazy old computing machines which used pulleys and cranks and cables to Predict the Tides.

The first was Lord Kelvin's Analog Tide Predictor (1872). In 1910 two Yanks built a more sophisticated Tide Predictor -- they call it Old Brass Brains -- and I just visited (and PHOTOGRAPHED) it in Maryland.

Watch This Space very soon for more details and nifty images. It's why I bought that disposable (analog 35mm silver-film) camera.

Meanwhile, I sincerely hope this wiggles for you. It's the tide in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, Canada, a town on the Bay of Fundy, which claims it has the world's highest tides -- well, I guess more accurately, the world's greatest difference between Low and High.

The nasty, intimidating, scary crap I had to endure just to get inside the government building where they keep Old Brass Brains in a dark, neglected old storeroom -- well, more about that Horrifying Adventure later. (But the nice young oceanographer who showed me the machine and answered my 7,912 nosy dumb questions was a real treat.)

But it illuminated what I am beginning to suspect is my Unhealthy Overfondness for Strange Old Machines.

So as you watch this crazy wiggle.gif , here's the problem:

Obviously the nice fisherfolk want to know, with considerable accuracy, what time of day and night it's safe to sail in and out of a particular coastal location, and when it's dangerous (or impossible) to sail.

They could get their answers by setting up a water height marker and paying a very bored girl or boy to record the water height minute by minute for a few days or weeks or months. This was probably the state-of-the-art technology for Tide Prediction precise enough for practical sailing well into the 19th Century.

But is there a way to very precisely compute the highs and lows in this animation in a nice dry, warm office thousands of miles away? Without even looking at the water?

Can it be reduced to an entirely mathematical problem, and solved? By pencil and paper and aspirin, or by digital computer?

Or can Gyro Gearloose (a "boffin" in UK jargon, I love that word) build some crazy special-purpose Tide Predictor Machine which will Predict the full cycles of local tides at any coastal location anywhere on Earth? Just by turning a crank?

Watch This Space for some Amazing Answers, with real cool pictures and more animations!


patfromch said...

it is possible, the BBC even broadcasts it after the weather report. More later

i saw it wiggle, looked very cool, reminded me of that similar thing you had on from Scotland.

Now here is something cool

Jim Olson said...

Harrison Chronometers...

Abbas said...

bay of fundy is super fun. nearby is also the magnetic hill which you may or may not have heard about. pop the car in neutral and watch it roll uphill.