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Is up on?
An electro-cultural conundrum.
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2013/10/29
3:14pm
stevenz
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I'm not sure that this is a conventional language matter or if it is more of an electro-cultural question, but here goes.

Here in good old North America our common wall switches are designed so that if you want the light on you flip the switch up, and if you want it off you switch it down. To me that makes intuitive sense. (I don't want to hear about duplex switches or installing them upside down.). Now, down under, specifically New Zealand, it is the opposite: up is off and down is on. I think that's backwards.

To my mind, "up" and "on" are actions that are elementally positive, whereas "down" and "off" are elementally negative. Therefore, I can say to my NZ friends "you're wrong!" (I lived in NZ and am going back so I will have ample opportunity to tell them.). There are other things that are backward too like which side you drive on, which side the zipper zips (they call it a zip), which faucets are hot and cold (except when they aren't), n'at. I hadn't thought the Coriolis Efffect was so pervasive.

Let's just leave it at light switches for now. Is there something in the essence of up and on that orient them to the positive, and down and off to be negative? I await your guidance.

2013/10/29
10:48pm
deaconB
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The farmhouse I grew up in was originally wired for a Delco plant, and there was a single hanging bulb with a pull chain in the center of each ceiling.  After the REA turned on our power (July 4, 1937), we rewired for switches and wall jacks – but the switches had two push buttons.  You'd press in the plain bakelite one a half inch, and the lights went out, and the button tipped with mother-of-pearl popped out. (No, they weren't springy. The were about 3/8" diameter.)  Depress the pearly button, and the lights came on. But I can't recall whether he pearl was on top or bottom.

I'm not sure if NEC demands "up" be on, but many switches used to print "on" and "off" on them.  "up". upside down, says "dn" but "off" upside down made no sense at all.

The plumbing code says hot water goes on the left, and THAT was a safety issue. Mt mother told us every Saturday that the rest of the world was plumbed backwards, and if we turned off the hot water first while showering, and screwed up, we'd scald ourselves.  These days, of course, separate hot and cold controls are illegal to install….

2013/10/30
1:39am
RobertB
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 The conventions for gadgets are a kind of idiom.  As with language, there's no rational basis for what should signify positive or negative:

Time's up!
Time out!
It's down time.
I'll be off.
My plane takes off.
Shut up!
Calm down!
She's clammed up.
What's up bro?
What's goin' down?
Go uptown.
Come on down, we'll have a party.

2013/10/31
2:25am
deaconB
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And, of course, my father's favorite:  the trash blew on off the road.

2013/10/31
7:42am
Dick
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deaconB said
And, of course, my father's favorite:  the trash blew on off the road.

Perfect sense.  It went on it's way which was off the road.

 

2013/12/18
11:33pm
RobertB
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Slow up!  (You are speaking too fast )

Slow down!  ( You are driving too fast )

2013/12/19
10:03am
New River, AZ, USA
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stevenz said: Let's just leave it at light switches for now. Is there something in the essence of up and on that orient them to the positive, and down and off to be negative? I await your guidance.

See this previous thread for an extensive discussion of that topic: http://www.waywordradio.org/discussion/topics/shut-the-light/

 

2013/12/20
12:51am
faresomeness
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It's likely that "up for on" and "down for off", for light switches, is arbitrary. Wikipedia has the following:

"…the direction which represents "on" also varies by country. In the USA and Canada, it is usual for the "on" position of a toggle switch to be "up", whereas in many other countries such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, and in New Zealand as well as rest of the world it is "down." … In countries prone to earthquakes, such as Japan and Mexico (as well as most of Latin America), most switches are positioned sideways to prevent the switch from inadvertently being turned on or off by falling objects.[citation needed]"

Can anyone back up the last bit?

Consider clocks. Dave Rothstein, Cornell astronomer, notes:

"The reason that clocks turn clockwise has to do with sundials, which were the first clocks. In the northern hemisphere, the earth rotates counter-clockwise, which means that from our point of view the sun appears to move across the sky in a clockwise directon. Therefore, if you build a sundial to tell time, the shadows will move across it in a clockwise direction." 

Mechanical clocks were first developed in the Northern hemishpere. If they had been invented in the Southern hemisphere, presumabley they'd go… counter-clockwise, or as my father might have said, "anti-clockwise".

2013/12/21
12:00am
RobertB
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faresomeness said
Consider clocks   …..  Cornell astronomer, notes:

Seinfeld was a grand master of the art of the schm : you show disdain for a concept by saying it twice, except the 2nd time you mess it up with a schm.  

 

So this is what I want to do:  Cornell Schmornell.

 

The sundial thing above is dubious just on the surface.  It's really rubbish.  Read my posts over here and see if you agree.

2013/12/21
7:05am
Dick
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RobertB said

The sundial thing above is dubious just on the surface.  It's really rubbish.  Read my posts over here and see if you agree.

It may be arguable but it looks to me like you ended up behind in that argument.  Certainly no reason to call the theory "rubbish."

2013/12/21
8:52am
RobertB
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Worse than the rubbish material is the the brandishing attitude of the apparent experts.  They show contempt for the public.  They insult your intelligence, Dick.

It was not even my effort to argue in the other posts, just to point it out, and  my point  did carry through all the way.

2013/12/21
7:36pm
deaconB
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US traffic goes counter-clockwise, while UK traffic goes clockwise. It's not obvious until you look at it relative to someone standing in the middle of the road, or a traffic circle.a w

Folks at the Landis Valley Museum say that "keep to the right" originated when the many builders of Conestoga wagons all put the brake handle on the left.  They don't say why the all agreed, nor why left was chosen rather than right. Nor why it was the opposite side chosen in the UK.

Many explanations seem to me to be similar to "Nature compensates.  If someone has a shorter left leg, they invariably have a longer right one."

2013/12/21
10:59pm
RobertB
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Too much has been made of the whys of right/left up/down.  Probably in most cases it is no more than just a choice that becomes more and more dominant and ultimately becomes the convention.

2014/04/10
12:00am
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On switches being up or down, three-way and four-way switches are dynamic or dependent on the other switches in the circuit. The usual way to install three-way switches is they both need to be up or both need to be down for the light to come on.

On driving sides, I always heard they actually came from the same source. One always mounts from the left side of the horse. It is said that knights did it that way because their sword was on their left and would not get in the way when swinging the right leg over. Then, knights would pass on the left so their strong fighting arm would be at the ready if the approaching knight were an enemy (also, think jousting). But, wagons ruled the roads in early America rather than knights. One method of passing approaching traffic on a narrow road was for the driver to mount one of the team so more control could be had. Since the harness was in the way of mounting the right horse, the left horse was always mounted. Since the rider now wanted to monitor/control the closest approach, the best visibility was attained by passing on the right.

2014/04/10
12:20am
Ron Draney
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deaconB said

US traffic goes counter-clockwise, while UK traffic goes clockwise. It's not obvious until you look at it relative to someone standing in the middle of the road, or a traffic circle.a w

Folks at the Landis Valley Museum say that "keep to the right" originated when the many builders of Conestoga wagons all put the brake handle on the left.  They don't say why the all agreed, nor why left was chosen rather than right. Nor why it was the opposite side chosen in the UK.

It's just a shame something like that didn't happen when they were deciding which side of a car to put the fuel-filler opening on. I've been to enough stations where two cars end up nose-to-nose with neither one willing (or perhaps able) to pull out and break the stalemate. And at places like warehouse clubs where all the cars enter the pump area from the same end, you can get four lanes of backed-up traffic wanting to pull to the right of the pumps, while only a few will drag the hose over the top of the car to take advantage of the spaces to the left designed for cars made by designers who chose the opposite solution.

2014/04/10
3:22am
deaconB
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I'm surprised that nobody has pointed out that the shadows on a sundial go clockwise during the day, regardless of whether you're north or south of the equator.

At night. they possibly go in the opposite direction. This is unsure, for the investigating scientists are too drunk at night to make reliable observations.  

2014/04/10
8:03am
Dick
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deaconB said
I'm surprised that nobody has pointed out that the shadows on a sundial go clockwise during the day, regardless of whether you're north or south of the equator.

At night. they possibly go in the opposite direction. This is unsure, for the investigating scientists are too drunk at night to make reliable observations.  

Nice Humor.  I can't tell if you're serious about the southern hemisphere.  Your statement is wrong.

 

2014/04/10
12:53pm
Robert
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And it's not exactly the hemispheres that count though,  because of how the Earth's axis tilts itself relative to the Sun-  by about 23.5 degrees.

Because of that angle, it is possible to be in the north hemisphere and cast south shadow (on the ground).  In other words, your shadow goes West-to-South-to-East.   That's CCW.

And that happens when you are in the north hemisphere in summer time, but are located close enough to the equator.    Similarly, it is possible to be in the south hemisphere and have your shadow go CW. 

What they talk about sun dial usually assumes the configuration of a vertical pole casting shadow on the ground.  There are also sun dials for which a vertical mounting surface (wall) takes the place of the ground.  For this kind, you might similarly reason it out for the shadow to move in the opposite direction.

2014/04/10
3:09pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Robert said: Because of that angle, it is possible to be in the north hemisphere and cast south shadow (on the ground). In other words, your shadow goes West-to-South-to-East. That's CCW.

I've been into astronomy since grade school, and can confirm what Robert said. But I'd like to add this clarification. If you are in the "tropics" between latitude 23.5° north or south, then the Sun can indeed be in a position to cast shadows either north or south (depending on the season). And that, of course, will determine whether a sundial runs CW or CCW (again, depending on season).

Wherever you are on this planet, the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west. So in the northern hemisphere, above latitude 23.5°, sundials always run CW. In the southern hemisphere, farther than latitude 23.5° south, sundials always run CCW. And that applies to sundials that are horizontally or vertically mounted.

The shadow-casting part of a sundial is called the "gnomon." In the northern hemisphere (above latitude 23.5°), the gnomon always casts its shadow to the north, hence the CW rotation of that shadow. The opposite occurs in the southern hemisphere (beyond 23.5° south).

DeaconB's comment about the behavior of a sundial at night is an amusing assertion. But near the Poles, when the Sun can be visible for 24 hours, the direction of the shadow's rotation does not reverse. And that applies whether or not the scientists have been drinking.  :)

2014/04/10
6:27pm
Robert
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In  far north where you have sun while the lower parts are in night, your shadow is actually south at dusk.

So the shadow movement is West-North-East-South-West,   a full swing around, CW.

Vertical mount sundials make use of the LOW shadow (that becomes straight down toward noon).  So the shadow movement is West-LOW-East.   Is that CW or CCW ?   In the northern parts, the sun dial itself needs to face south, so you will view it facing north, and what you see will be a CCW movement.  

What about vertical sun dial in the southern parts of the earth?  It should face north, swinging CW.

 

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