Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Archery for Pleasure or Practice in 14th-16th Century England

There were at least two different ways of shooting bows for recreation or practice in fourteenth-century England. The first was shooting at the butts. The mark to be shot at was set in front of or on the front of a bank of turf or earth. Butts were most useful at shorter ranges since they stopped a flat trajectory miss from passing far beyond the target. In the 18th century butts were shot at distances from 30 to 120 yards.

The second was shooting at a mark or "prick" without a butt behind it. This avoided the trouble of cutting and maintaining butts, but worked best for longer range shooting when the arrows fell at a steep angle, far enough that significant draw and strength was required. A twelvescore prick could be 240 yards from the shooter, and some marks were even further. In 1478 twelve married staplers of Calais challenged a like number of bachelor freemen of the Staple, with the challenge recorded in the Cely papers:

“If it would please you for your sport and pleasure to meet with us next Thursday (on) the East side of this town in the place called 'the Pane', you shall find a pair of pricks (marks), the length betwix the one and the other being thirteen score tailor’s yards, mete out (measured) with a line. There we, the underwritten, shall meet with as many of your order and shoot with you at the same pricks for a dinner or supper, price 12d a man. And we pray you for your goodly answer within twenty-four hours. Written at Calais the 17 day of August, anno Jesu, ‘78”

Recorded marks of London’s Finsbury archers during the 1500s ranged from 180 to 380 yards. Butts and pricks often used a pair of marks as in the 1478 Calais challenge, so the archers could shoot from one mark to the other and then back again, to reduce the time spent walking.

Other formats were recorded in the 1400s, and may have been used earlier. In shooting at rovers, archers would shoot from mark to mark, choosing the second mark when they reached the first, selecting some feature within range to shoot at like a tree or bush. Because the distance varied at each shoot, rovers was seen as better training for combat or hunting.

Henry VIII's law of 1541, 33 Henry VIII c. 9, attempted to mandate archery practice that required both long ranges that required powerful bows useful on the battlefield and the ability to shoot at varied ranges useful in war.

"That no Man under the Age of twenty-four Years shall shoot at any standing Prick, except it be at a Rover, whereat he shall change at every Shoot his Mark, upon Pain for every Shoot doing the contrary, iv. d. and that no Person above the said Age of twenty-four Years shall shoot at any Mark of eleven Score Yards or under, with any Prick-shaft or Flight, under the Pain to forfeit for every Shoot, six Shillings Eight-pence"

The mark itself could take a number of forms. The early fourteenth-century Luttrell Psalter shows a garland or circlet set against the butt about chest-high, and garlands were also the mark in the fifteenth-century Gest of Robin Hood. Other early marks were small circular pieces of paper or pasteboard, fixed to the butt or a post in front of it by a wooden pin or wand, or peeled willow or hazel wands set up as marks. An alternative mark was the “clout” (cloth), a piece of white fabric large enough to be seen from the shooting distance, fastened to a sharpened stick driven upright into the ground so that the bottom of the clout almost reached the ground. The modern archery target of concentric circles seems to have been a seventeenth-century innovation.

For most marks the winner was simply the closest arrow to the mark, and at longer ranges, the mark itself would rarely be hit. The garland was probably scored similarly to eighteenth-century “shooting within the inches”: each shot that hit within a twelve-inch diameter circle counted at thirty yards. At sixty yards the circle was twenty inches. Typically, each archer shot two arrows at the mark, the arrows were collected and scored, and then the bowmen would shoot at the next mark. The heads of arrows for shooting at marks had a specialized shape that differed from heads used for hunting or war: barbless and streamlined with a swelling shoulder so the archer could consistently draw to full length by feel. When shooting at rovers, archers might carry more than one pair of arrows so they could have arrows suited for different ranges.

In shooting at the popinjay, archers took turns attempting to knock an artificial parrot off the top of a church steeple or tall pole. This was popular on the continent perhaps as early as the 13th century, and Stowe reports that crossbow-makers had brought the sport to London by the 16th.

Alternatively, arrows could be purely for distance, either with lightweight flight arrows or the heavier standard arrow.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Treating the Kessler Syndrome

The Kessler Syndrome is a real problem. There's a lot of hardware in orbit, most of it derelict spacecraft and rocket stages. If nothing is done hardware will eventually collide with other hardware, creating shrapnel that threatens more hardware in a growing cascade.

Fortunately, this will happen slowly over the course of decades. There's time to fix the problem.

Unfortunately, we're not fixing it at this time.

Fortunately, we can start now, and the earlier we start the better.

Every piece of space junk we deorbit will reduce the problem, forever.

So. Let us agree that if uncatalogued space junk wipes out a functioning satellite, there is a fund to pay for damages,with funding proportional to the mass of derelict spacecraft and rocket stages in orbit that can be traced to specific states.

If it's an identified derelict, the launcher or last owner pays. This would typically be the launcher for rocket stages and the last owner for spacecraft.

Now everybody has an incentive to reduce the problem.

The United States can begin to calculate the benefit of deorbiting their derelicts.  And offer bounties for specific performance.

Fortunately, the deorbit bounty can be given for specific performance. If you deorbit, say, 5 tons of spacecraft, how you do it doesn't matter. As long as you don't make matters worse by breaking up the target in a failed deorbit attempt, and the bounty agreement can include penalties for this sort of failure.

Camp Enclosures: 1529 and 1544

This detail from Altdorfer's The Battle of Alexander at Issus seems to show camp enclosures created by rows of simple red tents with roofs and one wall. Click on the image for a larger view.

This 18th c. copy of a 16th c. painting of the Marquison camp from Henry VIII's Boulogne campaign of 1544 seems to show something similar: a cloister-like enclosure of fabric that both encloses a space and provides some additional shelter at the periphery.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Most Read Posts of 2013

How Jousts Were Structured Ca. 1340


Tents and Pavilions: 1380-1415

Script for a Judicial Duel

No Educated Person in the Middle Ages Thought the Earth Was Flat

Coat Armor, Badges, Devices, Liveries and Jupons

Blowing Bubbles

Early 15th c. Recipes for Sealing Wax

Modus armandi milites ad torneamentum.

Layers Beneath Armor

A Splendid Party Tent at Saint-Denys:1389

The abbey was reserved for housing the queen, noble ladies, officers of the court and princes of the blood; the house could not, without demolishing some buildings or without disturbing divine service and diligent religious devotions, find a large enough location for the celebration of royal feasts. They called for those skilled at cutting wood and building with squared timber, and ordered a hall constructed in the main courtyard of the abbey, more than sixty-four paces long and twelve wide. The heights were doubly covered: within with linen parti-colored white and green, without with white linen sewn together hanging from the peak of the roof and extending to the sides of courtyard walls, so that it seemed like a royal hall.

Bellaguet, L., and Amable-Guillaume-Prosper Brugière Barante. 1839. Chronique du religieux de Saint-Denys: contenant le règne de Charles VI, de 1380 à 1422. Paris: L'imprimerie de Crapelet. Vol. 1, pp. 586-588 Translation Will Mclean 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Splendid Tent with Turrets: 1393

At the Anglo-French negotiations at Leulinghen in 1393:
To avoid the boredom of the wait, spacious pavilions had been erected in the form of a camp on the neighboring plain, whose interiors were decorated with hangings of wool and rich silks which charmed the eyes of the assistants. 
Above all, the tent of the Duke of Burgundy was of extraordinary grandeur, such as our generation had never seen before. The construction was so rich and elegant that it captivated all eyes. One could not fail to admire the exquisite and novel worksmanship. It was a tent (tabernaculum) like a town surrounded by small wooden turrets and crenellated ramparts. At the entrance were two large towers between which a gate was hung like that of a building. From the middle, like from a great hall, ran appartments attached in several places as though by different alleys; enough, they said, to hold three thousand men.
Bellaguet, L., and Amable-Guillaume-Prosper Brugière Barante. 1839. Chronique du religieux de Saint-Denys: contenant le règne de Charles VI, de 1380 à 1422. Paris: L'imprimerie de Crapelet. Vol. 2, p. 76 Translation Will Mclean 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

NASA Recreates 'Earthrise" 45 Years Later

NASA has recreated the iconic Earthrise photo from Apollo 8, using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

A Tent with Turrets: 1445/1446

A tent with turrets and crenellation is shown in Gabriel Angler's painting of Ehud killing Eglon in his tent.

Interestingly, the Old Testament says that the assassination happened not in a tent, but what the Vulgate translates as  a summer parlor, with lockable doors. But this fits the pattern of assassinations of Israelite enemies like Sisera and Holofernes, who were killed in tents, so it may have seemed natural to the artist to show it in this way.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Liberty, Coercion and Just Redistribution

An unrelated stranger can't decide to take your money and spend it on something you don't want to.

But there are entities that can. There are libertarians who will immediately assume I'm talking about governments. "How can this be just?", they will say. "Taxation is theft!"

In this case, I'm not. The description also applies to a simple partnership where you are outvoted by the other partners. Or any corporation where you are a minority shareholder. Or a homeowner's association.

"But that's different! The non-government entities are voluntary agreements!"

Except they aren't always. You can inherit a minority interest in any of the above. You had no role in negotiating the original terms, and perhaps you never agreed to them, but you are still bound by them. Unless it's a publicly traded corporation, you may find it very difficult to sell your assets on acceptable terms. It may actually be easier to move to a different country.

A common libertarian position is that being outvoted in a non-government entity is freedom of contract, but when a government does it it becomes something akin to or even identical to theft.

"Yes, well, but the government only took the rights they claim by force and theft!" But almost all private landholdings have a similar problem. The rights of previous occupants were extinguished by violence, and the current occupants trace their claim back to that theft, with rare exceptions. Lockean homesteading is a just-so fable, and at best only held true for a distant past when unimproved land was so abundant that it could be privatized without later claimers being measurably disadvantaged. That social contract, if it ever existed, was torn up and rewritten in England in 1066 at the edge of the sword.

We come to a final puzzle. An individual with specific skills can usually earn significantly more in the United States than Mexico, even if some of the skills (fluency in Spanish, for example) are less useful in the United States than Mexico. How can exactly the same labor be worth much more after crossing the border?

I suggest that the answer is that an individual's productivity results from at least two factors. The first depends purely on what he can provide as a a self-owning person. The second depends on where they add their labor to the final product. Working in a polity that has abundant natural resources, favorable geography and climate, and efficient infrastructure and institutions will allow them to be more productive than they would in a less favorable state or in a state of nature like Robinson Crusoe. I will call this productivity boost the commonwealth surplus.

I don't know of any state today that allows entirely unrestricted immigration. There is clearly some level of immigration that can disrupt native culture and institutions: this was the case for Mexico before 1835, the kingdom of Hawaii, and Palestine. Totally unrestricted immigration is not a right that any state  now recognizes.

The United States allowed unrestricted immigration only briefly, from 1776 to 1875 under federal law. In practice, the window was less than that, since California passed several laws intended to discourage immigration from 1850 on, and we didn't control California and its west coast ports until 1846. Before that, restricting Chinese immigration required no law: distance was more than sufficient.

In most rich and developed states, the allocation of the commonwealth surplus is somewhat arbitrary. In the United States, it it goes to those lucky enough to be born within the borders, other children of citizens, the lucky individuals that have been able to legally migrate, and illegal immigrants that haven't been detected and deported yet.

Given that the commonwealth surplus is scarce and valuable, there is much to be said for charging those that enjoy it a rent equal to its value, and distributing the amount collected equally among all legal inhabitants of the commonwealth. Or perhaps a portion could go to foreigners who wish to immigrate, but are prevented because the natives believe the limited level of immigration they allow is justified by necessity.

So. I arrive at a theory that in a developed state like the US that does not allow unlimited immigration, some level of redistribution is just and desirable, even according to many libertarian theories of rights.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chang'e 3 Landing Video with the Moon Below

This video shows the Change'e 3 spacecraft's landing on the moon, filmed from the spacecraft. It starts slow, with the lunar surface slowly sliding beneath the spacecraft and mountains rising above the lunar horizon in the distance. It may take you a minute or two to notice the horizon rising slowly higher in the field of view as the spacecraft begins its descent. At 2:53 the sky rises out of view as the angle of descent steepens.

Things get more interesting at about 5:10, as descent stops and the lander hovers while choosing the best landing site. At 5:59 you first see the landing jets stirring the surface below.

But here's what I find really interesting. The official Chinese broadcasts of this footage showed the lunar surface above the spacecraft's field of view, not below, because that's how the cameras happened to be pointing as the spacecraft followed its ballistic trajectory. An amateur (and I use the word in praise) using the handle SpaceOperaFR has taken the effort to rectify the video so that the bottom of the screen points towards the pull of gravity. I thank you, whoever you are.

In the future in which we will spend the rest of our lives, an army of amateurs can be a powerful thing. Not for every task, but enough to do good service in many.

I would love to watch this with a Blue Danube soundtrack.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wheels on the Moon Again.

We're back.

China has successfully put a lander and rover on the lunar surface. The last rover was a Soviet Lunokhod in 1973. The last lander was Luna 24 in 1976. Well done! This is a part of the moon that has never been visited by working devices obedient to human control.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Earth and Mooon as Seen by Juno

Returning from deep space for the gravity assist flyby that will send her out to Jupiter, the Juno spacecraft films "the heavenly waltz of Earth and moon."

What a view!

Since 1974, gravity assists have become a powerful, elegant tool for interplanetary exploration.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The View from Our Window: ISS

Having spent an exciting but traumatic 90 minutes last night watching bad things happen to good people and good spacecraft in Gravity, it's nice to know that in the real world our enormous fragile and beautiful International Space Station is still there with fellow fragile primates in it looking down in wonder.


Gravity is visually stunning and believable, dramatic, and I like the characters. If you can enjoy 3-D, this is a movie that really benefits from being seen of the big screen in 3-D. As I write this, it's being pushed aside by newer releases, so if you haven't seen it and think you might like it, see it soon.

A few non-spoiler observations. It's set in the near future: there's a substantial Chinese space station in orbit. That puts it around 2020, based on China's current plans.

But it isn't our future. In the movie timeline, Space Shuttles are still operational. The Shuttle mission at the beginning of the movie is STS-157: in our timeline the last was STS-135 in 2011. And there never was an operational orbiter called Explorer.

So if you're the kind of spaceflight geek that knows how hard it is to get from our Hubble to our ISS because  of their different orbital inclinations, remember that this an alternative future. So maybe sometime between 2013 and 2020 there was a mission to change Hubble's orbital inclination to match that of ISS using an unmanned spacecraft with solar electric propulsion. Such missions have been proposed in our timeline.

I would have enjoyed hearing:

Stone: Look: behind and below: ISS.
Kowalski: Beautiful. Glad they completed the Hubble Inclination Change Mission. It's good to have options.


Bullock's astronaut makes it to an abandoned ISS with a damaged Soyuz spacecraft still docked, incapable of reentry but otherwise usable if she can get it loose. How can this be? Easy. When disaster struck, the ISS had a crew of six, and two Soyuz to provide emergency escape. Fortunately, there was a Dragon cargo spacecraft docked at the time which escaped damage. Three of the crew rode down on one Soyuz, and the other three took the Dragon. It has proved that it can survive reentry four times by 2013 in our timeline, and by the time of the movie it could have been even more proven. Even if not yet certified for human passengers, it beats a Soyuz without usable parachutes or waiting in terror on ISS for the next debris strike.

For dramatic reasons the Kessler Syndrome of cascading collisions spreads far too quickly, affects too many altitudes simultaneously, and hits far too frequently.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Proprietary Communities Are Not Local Governments

David Friedman seems to be arguing that proprietary communities are pretty much like local governments, only better.

This is incorrect, at least in Pennsylvania.

There are some pretty important things proprietary communities can't do that even local governments can. In particular, they cant't put you in jail and they can't tax people who don't own real estate in the community. Also, no eminent domain.

At the same time, they can do things that government can't. They are mostly unbound by the bill of rights. And they typically if not always restrict voting rights to those that own real estate. Bug or feature? You decide. Or not. I'm going with bug, myself.

The most dysfunctional community of which I have personal knowledge was a proprietary community in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The developers had strong incentives to make the development appear attractive, but none to make it actually be attractive. Once the lots were sold it wasn't their problem.