Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gears of War

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was the Avalon Hill wargame Bismarck about fighting ships in World War II (see it reviewed on my gaming site here and here). In junior high school, at some point my English teacher asked me what I wanted to do as a career, and was completely apalled when I said "I want to join the Navy and control the main guns on a battleship". (I think I'd share her dismay if someone told me something like that today.)

Anyway, over at Ars Technica, a wonderful article has been written by Sean Gallagher (former Navy officer and IT editor) on exactly how the fire control systems on those ships did their jobs -- solving 20-variable calculus problems in real-time (accounting for moving, pitching, rolling, recoiling, Cariolis-spinning projectiles on both ends) with shafts and gears, with accuracy that is hard to beat even today with digital computers and GPS-driven rocketry. There are lots of insightful videos about the components and gears used to do input, sums, multiplies and divides, and spinning disks that can do complicated functions like trigonometry and more.

To me, this stuff is completely like crack. Check it out:


(Also: Further commentary and links at recently-established news site SoylentNews.)


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