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# clockwise?

Bert Bates
author
Sheriff
Posts: 8898
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Imagine you're standing in a pasture. You watch a plane flying from west to north to east to south to west, and so on, in circles. Is it flying clockwise?

possible spoilers below...

and regardless - notice whether you changed your mind....

...

Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal
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• 2
Scroll down only if you want to see my answer....

Not from the pasture-standing perspective. Superman may have a differing opinion.

Ryan McGuire
Ranch Hand
Posts: 1055
4
Spoilers below...

Just to state the obvious...

The idea of "clockwise" necessarily depends on your perspective. For instance betting in a game of poker goes clockwise _as_viewed_from_above_. Next you might ask what constitutes "above". For poker, I would say "above" is the side of the table on which the chips are located.

So, as Bear already answered, the plane is flying counter-clockwise for the person in the pasture. However the plane would be seen as flying clockwise by a spy sattelite or any high-flying super heroes. "Clockwise" meaningless without some sort of (possibly implied) point of view.

There is the "right hand rule". If one direction along the axis of rotation can be differentiated from the other, then clockwise versus counter-clockwise can be determined. For instance, the current in a wire induces a magnetic field around the wire that is clockwise as viewed from the source of the current. In other words, if you wrap you right hand around the wire with your thumb extended to point in the direction of the current, the magnetic field is oriented in the same direction as your fingers.

There, have I sucked all the life out of the subject yet?

A similar question, the answer to which will be obvious since I'm adding it to this thread:

At a home decorating store I some wallpaper-like paper with a large (maybe 2 ft. diameter) compass printed on it. I noticed that the compass was printed backwards:

The paper was opaque, as opposed to a transparent decal. Why was the compass printed backwards?

Bert Bates
author
Sheriff
Posts: 8898
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The original question was meant to tease out a common brain bug. That is, that for most people when they think of clockwise they automatically imagine it from the perspective of being "above" whatever they're thinking about - even when they imagine being in a pasture looking up...

Stephan van Hulst
Bartender
Posts: 5387
52
And if you're watching across the plane through which the plane moves (if it doesn't change its height), the plane will appear to move back and forth, and not in a circle at all.

Paul Clapham
Sheriff
Posts: 20757
30
Does "clockwise" even mean anything any more in the 21st century? People don't wear wrist-watches any more, if they want to know the time they look at their cell phone. And many of the remaining watches on people's wrists are digital. I predict that by 2050 the percentage of people who remember what "clockwise" means will be about the same as the percentage of people who remember what "widdershins" means today.

Greg Charles
Sheriff
Posts: 2984
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Hey, I wear a wristwatch. An analog wristwatch. Are you saying I'm not people?

Ryan McGuire
Ranch Hand
Posts: 1055
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Paul Clapham wrote:Does "clockwise" even mean anything any more in the 21st century? People don't wear wrist-watches any more, if they want to know the time they look at their cell phone. And many of the remaining watches on people's wrists are digital. I predict that by 2050 the percentage of people who remember what "clockwise" means will be about the same as the percentage of people who remember what "widdershins" means today.

That's a common prediction to make, but I wonder how accurate the data going into it is. Of all the watches I've owned, which I would estimate to number about 12 or so, only one has been digital. (In the analog group I counted one that used LCDs to display the hour and minute hand.) Then again, I'm "old", so maybe I don't count. Another data point: I recently went shopping for a new watch and the vast majority that I saw in the display case were analog (or at least used the analog "hand" interface design.) Besides, many clock programs on computers and mobile devices still show an "analog" display.

Is the concept of clockwise really becoming obsolete?

fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
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Posts: 12086
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Paul Clapham wrote:Does "clockwise" even mean anything any more in the 21st century? People don't wear wrist-watches any more, if they want to know the time they look at their cell phone. And many of the remaining watches on people's wrists are digital. I predict that by 2050 the percentage of people who remember what "clockwise" means will be about the same as the percentage of people who remember what "widdershins" means today.

Most schools, offices, and businesses I've been in still have analog clocks. I have an analog watch - two, actually. Ok, three, if you could my wife's father's Rolex.

I think as long as we have the sun, and therefore sundials, we will have clockwise movement.

Matthew Brown
Bartender
Posts: 4565
8
The other point, even if you accepted the obsolescence of analogue clocks (which I don't) - there's clearly still a need to be able to distinguish between rotation in different directions. Which means that for "clockwise" to become obsolete, it needs to be replaced by another word that means the same. Are there any serious competitors? Until there are, "clockwise" will carry on being used even once few people realise where it came from.

Mike Okri
Ranch Hand
Posts: 83
One of those words (like fun & success) that means different things to different people depending on your perspective. We need a word that can accurately describe the direction of circular motion without reliance on perspective. Position is easier to accurately describe because we rely on the earth’s magnetic field.

Akhilesh Trivedi
Ranch Hand
Posts: 1599
It depends if you are watching it from earth or from above the plane.