January 30th, 2008

Like a Bi-Metallic Strip

I read Longitude after Christmas (thanks, Amity). It's about John Harrison's eighteenth-century efforts to build a timepiece that would operate reliably at sea. Variations of temperature, humidity, and the rocking motion of a ship at sea confounded others, but he found ingenious solutions for every problem and eventually triumphed with a device accurate enough to determine a ship's longitude even after months at sea.

He solved the problem of temperature variation by inventing the bi-metallic strip, which stabilized the action of the clock through hot and cold weather. I was immediately reminded of an entry in the Arc FAQ:

We're trying to make something for the long term in Arc, something that will be useful to people in, say, 100 years. (If that sounds crazy, remember that we're already up to 40.) So (a) we're not in a hurry to save effort; when you're trying to make something that will last 100 years, there is plenty of time to work on it, and (b) we don't want to adhere to anything that isn't timeless, lest the whole project curl up like a bimetallic strip.

Timeless, indeed.