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    Re: Wikipedia article on Winslow Homer's "Eight Bells"
    From: Bill Lionheart
    Date: 2019 Apr 9, 19:26 +0100

    Yes Frank. My claim was entirely "POV" and would be rapidly challenged
    on Wikipedia.
    
    > But seriously, who says that that is the price you pay? That's not claimed 
    in any official documentation for Wikipedia as far as I know.
    
    Maybe its just what I tell my students! Its just the spirit of the
    thing. You can donate money too if you like Wikipedia to pay for its
    servers and you want to keep it in existence, but mainly it is driven
    by people like us fixing it when we see something we know about  that
    is wrong.
    
    I think a more serious flaw is that rocking the sextant Gif animation
    that Frank pointed out was wrong and I used in my talk for school
    students.. I really understood the point when I did a (back) sight of
    the Sun at high altitude last year in the Caribbean. I had never seen
    the Sun so high and I was not so much rocking as twirling about like
    an inept ballet dancer on the aft deck.
    
    Bill
    
    On Tue, 9 Apr 2019 at 18:48, Frank Reed  wrote:
    >
    > Personally (that is, me, myself), I'm not too worried about what might be 
    right or wrong with the painting. It's a work of art, and that requires no 
    further justification. That said, yes, I, too, started looking at the 
    positions of the shades and such... But then I stopped myself... Have to stay 
    focused on the main point:
    > I am concerned about the Wikipedia article about the painting, and I brought 
    it up for discussion so that we could air out what those flaws might be.
    >
    > The section that has issues currently (pre-edits, which will follow, no doubt) reads:
    >
    > Most other sights are made at dawn or twilight. [...] Homer has taken some 
    artistic license, showing the figure at left using an octant to take a 
    reading of the sun, the other apparently reading the altitude of a completed 
    sight on his octant. In reality, both observers would have had their octants 
    to their eyes, rocking them back and forth to determine the highest elevation 
    reached by the sun, thereby establishing local apparent noon.
    >
    > As Doug has already noted, this is wrong or at least misleading. First, the 
    idea that "most" sights are taken during twilight suggests the bias of a 
    person who knows only traditional late-20th century celestial methodology. In 
    the 19th century, when the painting was created, twilight sights were 
    relatively rare. It is simply wrong to say that "most other sights" were 
    twilight sights (the confusing wording "dawn or twilight" is presumably just 
    Wikipedia entropy). Also the complaint that both observers should still be 
    continuously observing the sun "in reality" is erroneous. The focus on 
    "rocking" the sextant is un-necessary. There is no evidence of "artistic 
    license" in this painting, at least not in the celestial navigation details. 
    The article is wrong on technical matters and misleading in its subjective 
    analysis.
    >
    > So why should we care? It's only Wikipedia. The problem is that Wikipedia 
    articles are widely copied, and the usual warnings about not trusting 
    Wikipedia evaporate. For example, at winslowhomer.org, which might be taken 
    as an authoritative source on Homer's work by an innocent reader, we find 
    this page, http://www.winslowhomer.org/eight-bells.jsp, which includes this 
    text:
    >
    > Most other sights are made at dawn or twilight. [...] Homer has taken some 
    artistic license, showing the figure at left using a sextant to take a 
    reading of the sun, the other apparently reading the altitude of a completed 
    sight on his sextant. In reality, both observers would have had their 
    sextants to their eyes, rocking them back and forth to determine the highest 
    elevation reached by the sun, thereby establishing local apparent noon.
    >
    > Notice that "sextant" in the version copied at winslowhomer.org has been 
    replaced by "octant" in the current Wikipedia page, but otherwise the text is 
    identical. This is a major problem with Wikipedia -- copying over to other 
    resources.
    >
    > Bill, when I posted about this on Facebook, you mentioned that the article 
    used the word "sextant" (I think that was you). Were you looking at a 
    different edition of Wikipedia? It appears that the references to "sextant" 
    were replaced by "octant" in April, 2015. This is not an important 
    distinction since it's fair in modern usage to refer to any double-reflecting 
    instrument as a sextant.
    >
    > Bill suggested:
    >
    > Its no good just complaining - if Wikipedia has a mistake and you know about 
    the subject you edit it... its just what you pay for the privilege of using 
    it!
    >
    > Actually, there's plenty of "good" in complaining. We hash out what's 
    genuinely problematic and what's merely minor or perhaps a matter of opinion. 
    If we treat Wikipedia as a work of literature in its own right, then it 
    deserves to be objectively (and subjectively) reviewed once in a while, 
    doesn't it? We don't always have to see it sitting under a sign that say 
    "Under Construction: Road Legally Closed". Saying it's no good complaining 
    sounds a bit like saying that no one should review movies. They should just 
    make their own movies if they know so much about movies!
    >
    > But yes, of course, if you have the time and inclination, you should edit 
    when you find a problem on a Wikipedia page. It's easy. Or at least it should 
    be. In the past decade I used to edit very regularly (I have done thousands 
    of edits on pages with diverse topics) until about a year ago when it became 
    nearly impossible to do anonymous edits from mobile phone IP addresses. 
    Normally I would have brought up these issues on the "Talk" page behind the 
    article directly on Wikipedia, but as I say, that has become nearly 
    impossible. Besides, a Wikipedia page like this one has very low traffic and 
    little interest from active editors, so it's quite unlikely that the proper 
    "Talk" page would have generated any discussion.
    >
    > Your claim here, Bill, that editing is the price you pay for the privilege 
    of using Wikipedia is unfortunately unsourced and will be removed on the next 
    edit. Ha ha (that's the sort of comment this would have generated on a 
    Wikipedia page). But seriously, who says that that is the price you pay? 
    That's not claimed in any official documentation for Wikipedia as far as I 
    know.
    >
    > Finally, I wanted to add that the problems on this Wikipedia page about 
    Winslow Homer's painting were pointed out to me this past weekend by a 
    participant in my workshop "Celestial Navigation in the Age of Sail" at 
    Mystic Seaport. This person may join NavList, and when he does, I hope he 
    will say that he was the one who noticed the problems with the article. I'm 
    sure he would be a valuable contributor to NavList. He has been collecting 
    sextants for many years and has great knowledge of the instrument makers and 
    their history, but he had not, until this past weekend, actually learned how 
    to take and work celestial navigation sights.
    >
    > Frank Reed
    > Clockwork Mapping / ReedNavigation.com
    > Conanicut Island USA
    >
    > View and reply to this message
    

       
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