OT: Speed of light [was Re: Why not a Python compiler?]

Steven D'Aprano steve at REMOVE-THIS-cybersource.com.au
Thu Feb 14 10:51:55 CET 2008

On Thu, 14 Feb 2008 10:35:09 +0200, Dotan Cohen wrote:

>> If they asked an archer to fire an arrow through a distant window, he'd
>>  aim slightly above it. You can't spend dozens of hours every week
>>  shooting arrows at targets without learning to compensate for gravity.
> You are forgetting two importance things here. One, the archer does not
> have a crosshair that he puts slightly above the window. He is going
> mostly by feel and experience. I shot quite a few arrows when I was of
> the age that does that, and as skill builds, the arrows know to find
> their target. The archer is not moving dials or crosshairs.

So what? He's still *aiming*. 

I don't know if you did proper archery, as I have, or just played around 
with a toy bow with rubber arrows, but it's only in fairy tales that 
there are magic arrows that "know to find their target". The archer may 
not be able to articulate all the factors involved, but you can damn well 
bet that "aim a little bit higher than the target" is one of the factors 
that he could consciously say.

("A little bit" is naturally dependent on how distant the target is.)

They weren't idiots, and even in the Middle Ages if you aimed directly at 
a distant target your arrow would drop below where you were aiming.

> The second thing that you are forgetting is that archery skills are a
> classified military information. Should one develop a system for
> improving accuracy, he would not tell it to everyone. 

What a load of bollocks.

Far from archery skills being a "military secret", archery was a common 
skill amongst both the nobility and the commoners. Nobles hunted game; 
even ladies sometimes hunted small game like rabbits. Professional 
hunters used the bow to feed themselves and their families. People 
learned to use the bow from childhood.

In 1363, England's King Edward III declared that every able-bodied man in 
the kingdom, rich and poor alike, must practice archery at holidays and 
other opportunities. Archery skills weren't a secret known by a few, they 
were extremely common. In modern terms, don't think "knows the codes to 
launch the nuclear missiles", think "knowing how to aim your rifle at a 
target and pull the trigger": even the guys sitting out the war behind a 
desk are expected to know how to shoot a rifle. In some battles, English 
armies were made up of up to nine archers out of every ten fighting men. 
A skill that common was no secret.

The overwhelming military advantage England had over the French was the 
hardware and tactics: the Welsh longbow was a formidable weapon, far more 
powerful than the European bows, and the English nobility relied on it 
while the French treated their peasant soldiers with contempt. The 
English lords might have been just as contemptuous of their archers' 
social class as the French were, but they had nothing but respect for the 
power of their weapon. The French archers were simply outgunned, or 
outbowed if you prefer, and the French knights were brave but stupid.


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