Friday, March 18, 2011

Circular reasoning

I came across an article recently that caused me to think about the decisions I make now and how they can affect this generation, and the next, and the next.  Read on.....

The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet 8.5 inches.  That's an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?  Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the U.S. railroads.

Why did the English build them like that?  Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did they use that gauge then?  Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay!  Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?  Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break and some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads?  Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions.  The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads?  Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.  Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.  

So the next time you are handed a spec and told "we have always done it this way" and wonder what horse's behind came up with that, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses!

            Author Unknown

Just a little something to think on....


  1. Now that's like an article I read where a man was wondering why his wife cut off the ends of the ham when she baked it. She told him that's because her mother always did it that way. He asked his mother in law why she cut the ends of the ham off and she said it was because her mother always did it that way. When he asked HER mother why she cut the ends off of the ham before cutting it, SHE said it was because her pan was too small. =\

  2. The very foundations of our daily lives are based on these circular reasoning's.

    It begs the importance of stopping and questioning the "Why" and "How" do we get this way to the present? we need not to accept ALL things just presented to a society.

    First, comes an acceptable used standard in society.
    Then citizens follow that standard.
    Then history of that standard becomes a redundancy for successive societies.

    Here is another example of an acceptable standard, and the rest is history in conceptual reasoning.


    a,b,c = any real number * = multiply / = divide + = add

    Commutative Property of Addition a + b = b + a

    Commutative Prop. of Multiplication a * b = b * a

    Associative Prop. of Addition a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c

    Associative Prop. of Mult. a * (b * c) = (a * b) * c

    Distributive Prop. of Mult. over Add. a* (b + c) = a*b + a*c

    Dist. Prop. of Mult. over Subtraction a * (b - c) = a*b - a*c

    Additive Identity Prop. a + 0 = a and 0 + a = a

    Multiplicative Identity Prop. a * 1 = a and 1 * a = a

    Additive Inverse Prop. a + (-a) = 0

    Multiplicative Inverse Prop. a * (1/a) = 1

    Multiplicative Prop. of (-1) a * (-1) = -a

    Reflexive Prop. of Equality a = a

    Symmetrical Prop. of Equal. a = b then b = a

    Transitive Prop. of Equal. If a = b and b = c, then a = c

    Substitution Property If a = b,then b can replace a in any equation.

    Definition of Subtraction a - b = a + (-b)

    Definition of Division 0 / a = 0, a / a = 1, a / 0 = undefined


  3. A lot of reasons to doubt that one.

    For one, the Romans did not make much use of chariots during the time they were doing there road building. It probably has more to do with the size of the peasent (supply carts, and what they found worked best for them.

    This person has additional details:

  4. whether you are right or wrong, it makes sense and is a good story anyway. there are many things that could also be applied to the theory here. the "because we have always done it this way" is the major reason so many little bitty american towns and cities are fixing to dry up and blow ideas to age old questions are not welcome. sad.

  5. When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably one of the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass. ...and you thought being a HORSE'S ASS wasn't important!.

    Actually all of this is urban myth, but fun.

  6. Cute, but slavish traditionalism is not circular reasoning. Neither are definitions, mathematical or otherwise. Here's a pretty simple explanation of circular reasoning: