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Nov 21 2013

An important historical question!

Does anybody know the answer to Which way did Charles Darwin walk around the Sandwalk?.

When visiting Down House a couple of weeks ago I took a walk around the famous sandwalk, where Darwin took several walks each day. After walking anti-clockwise, which may surprise some, I asked a member of staff if he knew which way Darwin himself walked. He looked rather surprised by my question before answering that he didn’t know but presumed he alternated. I can’t help but severely doubt he would have alternated, especially when you consider how methodical his day was set out. In addition, everybody tends to stick to a ‘normal’ route no matter how often it is walked. So my guess is anti-clockwise, I would be delighted if someone actually knew the answer!

I know that when I visited I walked around it counter-clockwise, too. Now I’m wondering if I did it backwards, undoing all the magical science mojo.

95 comments

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  1. 1
    Anthony K

    Yeah, this is the kind of inane shit that totally undoes all the “No Hero Worship!” lip-service.

  2. 2
    Eamon Knight

    Another anti-clockwiser here (two, actually, though my wife and I cannot be taken as representing independent trials). It just seems natural to keep going straight (ie. right) at the fork.

  3. 3
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I wanted to keep my grumpy “Who gives a fuck?” to myself, but since Anthony went there already… Really, who gives a fuck?!

  4. 4
    busterggi

    Witches walk widdershins!

  5. 5
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Crap, busterggi beat me to using “widdershins” in a sentence. :(

  6. 6
    Al Dente

    I’m joining Anthony and Beatrice in the “Who gives a fuck?” coalition.

    BTW, what is anti-widdershins called? That’s much more interesting than which way did a dead guy walk around his garden.

  7. 7
    LykeX

    BTW, what is anti-widdershins called?

    Deosil.

  8. 8
    Richard Hollis

    Really, guys, anyone who’s leaving ‘who gives a fuck’: why are you bothering to comment at all? That’s a totally inane and pointless response. PZ obviously ‘gives a fuck’. It’s a matter of historical curiosity – to him at least. And if it doesn’t interest you, then just move on.

    If I logged on to the net and left a ‘who gives a fuck’ comment at the bottom of every single article I WASN’T interested in, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day.

    How is it at all constructive to let the internet at large know you aren’t interested in this? This is PZ’s blog – he can ask whatever he likes. Grow up.

  9. 9
    chigau (違う)

    Richard Hollis
    You’re new here, aren’t you?

  10. 10
    PZ Myers

    #1, Anthony K:

    Yeah, because “magical science mojo” totally clues everyone in that I’m dead serious in my concern.

  11. 11
    Area Man

    In addition, everybody tends to stick to a ‘normal’ route no matter how often it is walked.

    Uh, I don’t. I take daily walks around the neighborhood and try to take different routes and go in different directions. I can’t be the only one who likes a bit of variety in his walks.

    Maybe Chuck was borderline OCD or something, and had to have everything the same way, but otherwise I see no reason to think that he wouldn’t alternate.

  12. 12
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    It is odd, though. It strikes me that in most track-racing sports events I’ve seen, they travel anticlockwise as a rule. (F1 is the only exception which springs to mind.)

  13. 13
    lochaber

    If it were me, it would probably depend on the sun. I don’t like the sun much, and even less when it’s shining in my eyes, so I’d probably be partial to a route that minimized that…

  14. 14
    Al Dente

    Richard Hollis @8

    I apologize for not giving a fuck. Obviously it’s important to only comment positively on blog posts and, if one doesn’t give a fuck then one should just shut up. To hear is to obey, sahib. I shall refrain from announcing my lack of fuck giving on those topics to which I feel a lack of personal donations of fucks. I have been suitably chastised by your example of giving a fuck about people not giving a fuck and announcing that position. Henceforth I will only comment if I do give a fuck about a particular topic. Thank you for showing me the way to give a fuck about not giving a fuck.

    Since I’m thoroughly indebted to you for showing me the way to correct and proper fuck giving and lack thereof, I feel almost ashamed to ask you to provide one minor favor. It is with the greatest humility, edging towards mortification, that I humbly request you grant one slight consideration towards me and I offer the most profuse thanks if you would comply. Would you be so kind as to fuck yourself?

  15. 15
    george gonzalez

    What’s more significant, he did it about 971 billion miles below the South Pole, and a little to the left, if my calculations are correct.

  16. 16
    grumpypathdoc

    Besides how he walked around the Sandwalk, how did he pace around the “Beagle”? Did he mention it in his diary?

    This image of Darwin comes to mind: He’s walking around head bowed in thought. Every time someone walks the path in the future in the opposite direction and passes Darwin’s position in the past, Darwin raises his head, shakes it and continues walking.

  17. 17
    Doc Bill

    Anti-clockwise. That way you walk towards the cupola at the end of the straight bit rather than approach it from the side. Also the view of Down House is better and more pleasing on the anti-clockwise circuit.

    Also there is the spot where he used to kick pieces of flint into a pile so he could keep track of how many loops he did.

    Finally, that’s the way I walked it and it seemed natural and proper. So there.

  18. 18
    Eamon Knight

    Not to give the question more import than it deserves, but: Downe House is a place where the world changed. We are living in the aftermath of what one man did there in those decades between 1835 and 1882. And it happened on the Sandwalk, in the gardens and outbuildings where Darwin conducted experiments, watched earthworms and raised pigeons, and in his study where he spent endless hours staring down a dissecting microscope at barnacles.

    I go to places like that to get that feeling of history (otherwise I might as well stay home and browse the website). And it’s there in the details — the reproduction of Darwin’s workbench, all untidy as if he left it in the middle of doing something, the stair slide where his children played. And not least, on the Sandwalk, down to the flints Darwin used to count his circuits. You go on it, not just for a stroll, but to ask: what did he think, the thousands of times he did this? How much of the Origin, or the Descent, was first conceived or composed, under this or that now-ancient tree?

    Of course which way he went doesn’t really matter (though in the course of umpteen years, I expect he’d vary it occasionally!), but to me it’s the kind of little thing that makes Darwin more than a cardboard historical figure. No that’s not hero-worship — he was a fascinating man who left an enormous legacy; it’s worth trying to make a kind of connection with the persona.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Richard Hollis

    chigau – is it that obvious? ;-)

    Al Dente –

    “Obviously it’s important to only comment positively on blog posts and, if one doesn’t give a fuck then one should just shut up.”

    From the phrasing of your post I can tell that you think this is an absurd notion. But actually it is perfectly sensible advice. It is called being polite. Rather than being obnoxious, entitled and rude.

    Oh wait: I know, I know, you ‘don’t give a fuck’.

  21. 21
    davidgibson

    if i recall the tv program repo darwin had him walk away from the camera going clock wise,and tv is real so that must be the direction

  22. 22
    Al Dente

    Richard Hollis @20

    You need to take your sense of humor to the shop for calibration. It’s obviously not working correctly. Unless, of course, you pride yourself on not having a sense of humor, in which case I withdraw my recommendation.

  23. 23
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    It is not that the way that Darwin walked matters in some great, cosmic manner.

    It is, however, an interesting question. Doesn’t really change in significance if he walked clockwise or widdershins, but it is a thing to possibly wonder at.

  24. 24
    Moggie

    Richard Hollis, would you like to go out and come in again? You’re mistaking lighthearted banter between people who know one another for, well, DEEP RIFTS. And that’s a bit silly.

  25. 25
    haslar53

    I think it must be clockwise because, when I did it, I didn’t bump into him.

  26. 26
    khms

    #18 Eamon Knight:

    I go to places like that to get that feeling of history (otherwise I might as well stay home and browse the website).

    Whereas I prefer to stay home and browse the website, TYVM. Looking at a place reproduced

    all untidy as if he left it in the middle of doing something

    doesn’t sound interesting. I have enough problems getting a sense of a person from meeting them or reading what they wrote, looking at their former environment doesn’t do a thing for me. (Now if that environment was interesting on it’s own …)

    As for the direction they walked around a path … I think I must regretfully place myself among Anthony K’s followers.

    Oh, and as for places where the world changed, I happen to live in one: the Peace of Westphalia was signed here. I don’t get much of a feeling of history from the city.

  27. 27
    Richard Hollis

    Al Dente @22

    Apparently I do need to. Because if ‘I don’t give a fuck’ is a joke then I simply don’t get it. Or maybe it’s just a question of manners.

    Moggie @24

    It would be nice if you were right, but with respect I kinda doubt it. What is the joke here, and who is sharing in it?

  28. 28
    john3141592

    You might ask Chet Raymo. He must have done a lot of research while writing Walking Zero.

  29. 29
    chigau (違う)

    Richard Hollis
    The first few comments really were just grousing among people who know each other.
    Obviously not obvious to a newcomer.
    I don’t know what Al Dente and Moggie are on about.

  30. 30
    Anthony K

    Yeah, because “magical science mojo” totally clues everyone in that I’m dead serious in my concern.

    Well, never underestimate people’s ability to not get it. But that’s beside the point. Because serious or not, The Sandwalk is a sacred place, complete with sacred objects and now sacred rituals. Eamon goes into detail to describe why Downe House is not just a house, why The Sandwalk is not just a path, why Darwin’s Workbench is not just a bench.

    No that’s not hero-worship — he was a fascinating man who left an enormous legacy; it’s worth trying to make a kind of connection with the persona.

    Don’t get me wrong; I understand very well the human nature to want to connect with people or places for which there is significance. What I’m trying to do is get to the nature of how the imbuing of places and things with sacred meaning (pieces of Christ’s cross, Darwin’s workbench) becomes the thing we nebulously refer to as ‘hero worship’, if hero worship is actually a thing we want to reduce or stop.

  31. 31
    Richard Hollis

    chigau –

    Fair enough, I’ll accept that.

  32. 32
    Al Dente

    Richard Hollis,

    This OP was quite lighthearted in tone. When PZ talks about “undoing all the magical science mojo” then he was not being serious about which way Darwin actually walked around his garden. Three of us gave responses that we couldn’t care less about the topic. You came roaring in, outraged that people had the temerity to actually say they didn’t give a fuck about a certain question. How dare we express our lack of fuck giving! You admonished us to “grow up.”

    I responded to your bombastic bile by writing a pompous, pseudo-groveling reposite. I thought the appropriate reply to you telling me to “grow up” was for me to tell you to “fuck yourself.”

    You were affronted that someone had the unmitigated gall to fail to understand you were merely giving good advice to the unwashed hoi polloi. What’s more I was actually rude to His Excellency the Supreme Arbitrator of Politeness, the Honourable Richard Hollis. I told you that you failed to recognize humor.

    You continued to be indignant. I continue to be unimpressed by your self-importance.

  33. 33
    Lofty

    Which way did Charles Darwin walk around the Sandwalk?

    Antikookwise.

  34. 34
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    Google has made the walk and you can go either way

    I did, but when I got to (the remains of) the hollyhocks, I looked up and … Dear God! What Is That Thing?!

    Giant red skulls floating through the Kent sky? Aiiee. Run away! (In my case, anti-clockwise.)

  35. 35
    Richard Hollis

    Al Dente –

    Interesting take on it.

    I was rather shocked that people uninterested in a blog post would bother to say that they “don’t give a fuck”. That is, as far as I can see, pointless and rude. If this is actually a big joke which I’m missing completely then I apologise for not seeing it, but I honestly don’t think it is.

    Your pseudo-grovelling riposte was based around two points: 1) that being polite and constructive is laughable (I don’t know why – presumably because you’re just ‘too cool’ to care about having any manners), and 2) that I can “go fuck myself” which is a reiteration of your established disdain for being polite or constructive.

    This is nothing at all to do with my arrogance or conceit – you are talking down to me just as much as I am talking down to you. The difference is that I am doing it on principle, while you are just defending your ego. You clearly simply cannot stand to be criticised and are retaliating, painting me as the elitist snob who simply ‘doesn’t understand that you were joking’ (I mean, what sort of an arrogant monster would DARE to pull you up on anything? Doesn’t he know you are beyond reproach at all times?) as a defense mechanism.

    And now this conversation has deteriorated to a point where we both look ridiculous simply for keeping it going.

    I think I’m done with this.

  36. 36
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Saying “who gives a fuck?” is an obvious and easy answer- and not an answer Darwin would have given. As far as Darwin was concerned everything, no matter how apparently unimportant, was worth looking at carefully.
    Darwin took his walk for exercise and to think, but he also watched what was happening around him, so he’d probably vary the way he walked to stop it being a matter of pure habit. Quite possibly if something caught his attention he’d turn around on the next circuit that day and walk the opposite way to see it from a different angle.

  37. 37
    Eamon Knight

    @30: What I’m trying to do is get to the nature of how the imbuing of places and things with sacred meaning (pieces of Christ’s cross, Darwin’s workbench) becomes the thing we nebulously refer to as ‘hero worship’, if hero worship is actually a thing we want to reduce or stop.

    I think it only becomes “sacred” or “worship” if we refused to admit to the flaws in our subjects. For example, I have no problem acknowledging that, while Darwin’s politics were liberal and humane for the time, he was a white upper-class man who held some views that would get him royally flamed in spaces like this one.

    So, the “feeling of connection” with places and people, I dunno — function of individual temperament, I guess. I got a slightly similar feeling earlier on the trip when I walked the walls of York*, because my parents are from Yorkshire and I probably have ancestors (none of whose names I actually know) going back 2000 years through all the waves of invasion, in that place.

    * Clockwise, if it matters ;-).

  38. 38
    Steven Brown: Man of Mediocrity

    Richard Hollis:

    Can I suggest that you don’t take it upon yourself to defend PZ and police the comments on his blog? He’s a grown up and can take care of himself quite happily.

    Also, I suggest you don’t try telling people not to be rude in any threads about serious matters. That won’t end well at all.

  39. 39
    octopod

    Well, we were told in my museums class that traffic-flow studies have shown most people in the study populations — i.e. museum-goers in North America and Europe — will turn right after a door and so do a loop widdershins. For all I know, though, that may not have been true in the 19th century.

    I’d like to pursue this discussion, though, regarding the significance we assign to sites and artifacts of historical importance. Anthony K, do you really think that it amounts to hero worship when someone wants to do something like take the same walk that Darwin took or step onto planks taken from the Titanic? I’m personally not inclined to think of it thus; although it’s certainly not a rational impulse, it’s a more general sort of desire-for-connection type thing than it is hero worship. It’s all this “aura of the real” business I’ve been talking to people about a lot lately, the idea of seeing/touching/doing The Real Thing that draws people to museums and historical locations.

  40. 40
    doubtthat

    Let me just say that the “I don’t give a fuck” comments were incredible. It combined pettiness with an urge for attention, cluelessness with boldness. I give them 8/10 stars.

    And obviously he walked in a straight line for ten minutes, turned 180 degrees, and walked back. So, neither. That’s just science.

  41. 41
    doubtthat

    Can we get to the more important debate? Why are there a group of heathens calling it “anti-clockwise?” It’s “counter-clockwise,” damnit.

  42. 42
    Subtract Hominem, a product of Nauseam

    Have a happy Fucksgiving Day, everyone.

  43. 43
    Anthony K

    For the record, I never said I didn’t give a fuck. I did call the question inane, but I don’t think it’s inane; more accurately, it’s seems something akin to fetishization to me.

    I think it only becomes “sacred” or “worship” if we refused to admit to the flaws in our subjects.

    That’s probably a good spot to plunk down a line differentiating hero worship from what you described very well as making a connection with the persona. Incidentally, I don’t mean to pick on you Eamon; I have much respect for you based on your comments. Your comment #18 was as beautiful a description of some kinds of meanings people can attach to places or things as could be found in any textbook on, say, human geography. What you describe does matter.

    But I will claim that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who made a conscious decision to refuse to admit to the flaws in our subjects; to step over that line.

    Anthony K, do you really think that it amounts to hero worship when someone wants to do something like take the same walk that Darwin took or step onto planks taken from the Titanic?

    No, but I think they’re both part of the same human complex of behaviour: I used the word ‘sacred’ earlier in the context Durkheim did; referring to totems of group significance, rather than mundane, individual significance. (The Sandwalk is ‘sacred’ because it had significance to a man who has significance to us all; the alley down which I stroll to catch my bus means little in the greater cultural group context.)

    I’m personally not inclined to think of it thus; although it’s certainly not a rational impulse, it’s a more general sort of desire-for-connection type thing than it is hero worship. It’s all this “aura of the real” business I’ve been talking to people about a lot lately, the idea of seeing/touching/doing The Real Thing that draws people to museums and historical locations.

    Much like Eamon’s comment #18, that seems a pretty accurate description of what’s going on, and it would be in-humane to demand we cease desiring that personal connection.

    But if we are sincere in desiring people to cease their ‘hero worship’, then we really need to take a look at the spectrum of behaviours in consideration here, and how behaviours shift from one region to another.

  44. 44
    Richard Hollis

    Steve Brown

    “Can I suggest that you don’t take it upon yourself to defend PZ and police the comments on his blog?”

    I thought I was just giving my opinion, as they were. Though I do take your point that it’s probably futile.

    “Also, I suggest you don’t try telling people not to be rude in any threads about serious matters. That won’t end well at all.”

    Yes, I’m getting a whiff of that too. It’s quite the taboo, it seems. :-/

  45. 45
    stillacrazycanuck

    @6

    News that Darwin, as a dead guy, kept walking around his garden, would likely get a lot more young people, especially in the USA, taking him seriously: Jeez…a zombie scientist! How cool is that?

    Frankly, I doubt that his direction of travel would be at all important.

  46. 46
    carlie

    When the Chicago Museum had its Darwin exhibit several years ago, they had a room where the back wall was constantly playing a projection of the Sandwalk so you could stand there and feel like you were walking along it (if you used your imagination a lot). I can’t remember which way round it was going, though.

  47. 47
    Al Dente

    Richard Hollis, you’re getting very close to being a tone troll. I strongly recommend you get over yourself because if you start tone trolling a serious discussion you will not enjoy the result.

  48. 48
    Dick the Damned

    Ain’t it obvious which way he walked? It was clockwise … until he got the letter from Wallace, then it was all counter.

  49. 49
    Juliana Ewing

    Gwen Raverat’s memoir of the later Darwin family, Period Piece, has a long description of Down House, including the Sandwalk. It does not settle the question, but it’s well worth reading anyway.

  50. 50
    Eamon Knight

    Anthony K. @43:

    But if we are sincere in desiring people to cease their ‘hero worship’, then we really need to take a look at the spectrum of behaviours in consideration here, and how behaviours shift from one region to another.

    Thank you for clarifying that you’re not pissed at me ;-). (Also, for reminding me by your spelling that you’re Canadian).

    I see (and I don’t think you disagree with this) religious notions of “sacredness” as being part of the normal spectrum of human behaviour, and I want to reclaim what is good and right about that, so that secular expressions of it are not seen as a cheap knock-off of the True Awe of God, but rather the other way round. And I get that “sacral” feeling every bit as much on a hike in the woods, or at Down House, or the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, as I ever did in church. Hell, the first time I saw diffraction patterns from *electrons* I felt like I’d been initiated into one of the Greater Mysteries. (OK, QM is a fucking big mystery to most of who didn’t major in physics, but still….)

  51. 51
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I apologize for mentioning that I don’t give a fuck. I’ll keep my grumpiness to an open thread next time.

  52. 52
    davidgibson

    lots of comments here because pz’s other posts were so science heavy the lurkers could not get past the first sentence.

  53. 53
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Richard Hollis

    Also, I suggest you don’t try telling people not to be rude in any threads about serious matters. That won’t end well at all.

    Yes, I’m getting a whiff of that too. It’s quite the taboo, it seems. :-/

    Protip: If you ARE going to tell people to not be rude, at least be extremely fucking rude when you are about it.


    re Darwin:
    Would he have flipped a coin? It would sure have cut through the uncertainty.

  54. 54
    unclefrogy

    CM I would call that an Easter egg if it was a video game.
    in the windows flight sim. WWII europe over Stonehenge is a pink pig and an abstract geometric grey thing

    uncle frogy

  55. 55
    robinjohnson

    Area Man, #11:

    Maybe Chuck was borderline OCD or something, and had to have everything the same way, but otherwise I see no reason to think that he wouldn’t alternate.

    Actually alternating, where you have to go the way you didn’t go last time, seems far more obsessive* to me than having a way you’re used to going. But I agree there’s probably a high variance.

    Did Darwin write about the route? Could you guess which way he was going from the order that he listed the scenery or anything?

    * I suspect that using “borderline OCD” to mean “obsessive about routines” is ableist language

  56. 56
    Don Quijote

    Was Darwin left or right handed? Being a lefty myself and given the choice, I seem to naturally turn left. I don’t know if there is any science in this but it would be interesting to find out if other lefties are the same.

  57. 57
    stevebowen

    Yes anti-clockwise, It really wouldn’t make sense to do it the other way. I don’t live far from Down House so visit every now and then and it really has never occurred to me that anyone would naturally go clockwise around it.

  58. 58
    marko

    Well, this thread is just bizarre. A lifelong atheist, it has taken to this moment finally feel the emptiness of a life bereft of meaning. Should we ponder on whimsical questions about the life of strangers? Of course not, it doesn’t matter, who gives a fuck. I ponder on all sorts of things that have no relevance on anything, I should stop it immediately. Music, art, science, history, people; in a few billion years it will all be gone anyway. Who gives a fuck.

    My dad used to answer the most fundamental religious questions with the phrase “You eat, you shit, you die.” It seems appropriate here.

    You eat, you shit, you die. Who gives a fuck.

  59. 59
    marko

    …and I’ll cast a vote for anti-clockwise. That’s how we decide these things, isn’t it? A vote?

  60. 60
    AshPlant

    Eamon Knight @2:
    Yes, you could say going right at that point is the…natural selection.

    Please feel free to imagine me donning sunglasses during the ellipses, I’m not above meming gratuitously.

  61. 61
    Inaji

    Richard Hollis @ 44:

    I thought I was just giving my opinion, as they were. Though I do take your point that it’s probably futile.

    It shouldn’t be futile. While this is a rude blog, that does not mean ‘anything goes’, in spite of some people thinking it does. There are commenting rules here, and the regular commentariat is bound by them, as well as new people. The commentariat tends to forget that, and think the rules don’t apply to them. The commenting rules are here.

    There are monitors here, as well (quite a few in this thread), who are supposed to be helpful to new people and keep an eye out for problems. There’s a contact link for them on the sidebar. There are two open threads here, The Lounge and Thunderdome. The lounge is a safe, supportive space and heavily monitored. Thunderdome is more relaxed, and anything goes there.

    I hope you do bother with commenting again, it’s always good to see new people, and if someone snaps at you, snap back. Oh, and using html to quote people when responding helps to keep everything easily readable. To do that, use:

    <blockquote>Place Text Here</blockquote>, which gives you:

    Place Text Here

    Hope to see you around Pharyngula, Richard.

  62. 62
    PZ Myers

    I’m going to be rude and say this to y’all: some things aren’t meant to be taken so seriously. This is not an issue where anyone is being harmed; if you assume an excess of reverence, you’ve got it all backwards — this is a story about self-aware irreverence.

    And if you apply the same gravity towards a light-hearted anecdote about a respected historical figure that you do towards those more serious concerns, you diminish the seriousness of those other concerns. Laugh a little when you can, scowl when it’s needed. There is a range of appropriate human responses, you know.

  63. 63
    marko

    Amen!

  64. 64
    Weedless Monkey

    Ramen.

  65. 65
    octopod

    Anthony K, thanks for the link to Durkheim. Interesting idea.

  66. 66
    lorn

    A say we perform an experiment. Run 100 post-grad bio majors through the walk with 50 going clockwise and the other 50 going anti and follow their careers. Given 50 years, or so, we shall have an answer.

    Most modern American, or so I’m told by behavioral researches who design grocery stores and such, tend to go anti-clockwise around stores. Most races are anticlockwise. Traffic circles in the US are anti-clockwise.

    Of course this designation is based upon a series of cultural norms. We assume that we are above the action and looking down. If you assume you are below the action and looking up ‘clockwise’ is reversed.

    While most modern Americans are habituated to processing anti-clockwise it has to be noted that traffic in Britain holds to the left and traffic circles travel clockwise. I assume it was the same when it was mostly horse drawn carriages.

    I actually think that there is an argument to be made that Darwin alternated. As I understand it there was a general concern about balance.

  67. 67
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    I think the traffic circles’ thing has more to do with driving on the right or left; circles in France go anti-clockwise, as do those here in Canada, and both places drive on the right (driver in the left seat), placing the driver on the inside of any traffic circle, better for both visibility and driver safety. Cars sometimes have only one passenger, who will then be away from the potential T-crash side of the car; when there is more than one passenger, of course, this advantage is lost, but the odds favour having the driver to the inside.

    Certainly it’s my experience that stores in Canada will have that anti-clockwise layout to some extent, though not always. All three of my nearest grocery stores, and all four of the nearest chemists/pharmacies do that: entrance to the right as you enter, exits to the right as you leave, and thus an anti-clockwise layout, but I can think of three other stores in my town that are set the other way; in each case, they’re in malls where the relation of loading docks to mallside entrance was such that they had no choice.

    Or who knows, maybe it’s a coriolis force thing.*

    * I know it is not a coriolis thing. ;)

  68. 68
    Eamon Knight

    Traffic circle direction is absolutely mandated by driving handedness. A moment’s visualization should convince you that, if they went the other way, entering and exiting vehicles would cross each others’ paths.

    (Would this be considered tangential to the OP topic?)

  69. 69
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    The traffic circles thing:

    It’s a matter of “natural” traffic-flow. Picture the layout. If you drive into a circle on the right-side of the entrance-roads, but the circle goes clockwise, the traffic gets crossed-up at the exits/entrances. Instant traffic-jam. Go anticlockwise, and you don’t pass the entrance-side of your exit-road, so you’re not stopping traffic coming out of that exit.

  70. 70
    rblaik

    Hi PZ,

    As Head Gardener of Down House, I’ve enjoyed walking the Sandwalk at least a couple of times most days for the last five years. Hopefully, I can at least outline what we do know about Darwin’s use of it (the tl;dr answer is probably anti-clockwise). What is well documented about Darwin’s use of the Sandwalk is:

    - Darwin had a long morning walk from about 07.00 year-round that would include the Sandwalk, but would often go further to quiet woodland around a mile from the estate.

    - His midday walk followed a set pattern that varied little over the years – five laps of the Sandwalk counted using fair-sized flints that he would kick aside to keep track of his ‘turns’ around the copse. Although he covered less distance and fewer turns in his later years, he still kept a set routine on the Sandwalk.

    - Where he could alternate his set routine was the route he could take back to the house – either retracing his steps back through the garden or across the meadows from a stile to east of the copse.

    - He would often ‘creep’ around the copse right up wild animals without them sensing him, standing so still that on one occasion squirrels ran up his leg and chased around his neck.

    - Although it was planted up as a contrived woodland garden walk, lots of scientific observations were made there on seed dispersal and longevity, parasitic plants, ecology of hedgerows, and pheromone trails in bees.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have an written account of the direction. We base the presumption of anti-clockwise on:

    - Darwin family anecdotes about him walking the ‘dark side’ first, then returning down the ‘light side’ (anti-clockwise) and that of his children’s trick of putting the flint markers back when he disappeared around the corner on the ‘dark side’ (again, anti-clockwise).

    - The prevailing wind comes from the southwest. Moving anti-clockwise would mean he could creep through the wooded side of the copse downwind from any animals. The ‘light side’ is also very windswept in winter, being on the brow of a hill, so walking clockwise would mean walking into the wind. It has also been pointed out as Darwin was right-handed, and hunted with a pistol, he would be used to stalking animals to the left.

    For those wondering why does all this matter? The restoration of the estate, and its presentation to visitors today, is evidence-based. There is a huge amount of archival and archaeological evidence showing how the estate was used and how Darwin’s scientific work was carried out here. We aim communicate as much of this evidence as we can, without overloading the place, or visitor, with signage / interpretation. We also want visitors to enjoy the place as much as the Darwins did living here!

    Rowan Blaik, Head Gardener
    English Heritage

  71. 71
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Rowan Blaik

    Thank you.

  72. 72
    Anthony K

    Thanks for that comment, Rowan Blaik. I’m sorry for my part in conveying the impression that this doesn’t matter. I wrote carelessly and poorly.

    I should have expected that the man was as methodical in his walks as he was in his work. That’s worth knowing. I’ll do well to think on that for a bit.

    Again, thank you.

    Your work is appreciated.

  73. 73
    ChasCPeterson

    what, an argument from authority?!

    kidding, of course.
    I trust that Mr. Blaik’s is the last word on that subject.
    (not that I give a fuck)

  74. 74
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    YAY rblaik!

    Thanks for coming in rblaik/Rowan Blaik! I love learning new things and this is such a wonderful treat that our idle musing attracted your attention long enough for you to give us not only your professional opinion, but the evidentiary basis on which it rests so that we can evaluate the conclusions drawn ourselves.

    What better tribute to an inveterate observer and theorizer!

    Feel free to drop back by anytime.

  75. 75
    chigau (違う)

    Thank you, rblaik.

    *ahem*
    Clockwise is NorthernHemispere-centric.

  76. 76
    carlie

    Thank you, rblaik!!

    chigau – clocks run the other way in the south?!

  77. 77
    chigau (違う)

    carlie
    No.
    The NorthernHemisphere imposed “clockwise” on the South.
    —-
    h

  78. 78
    lochaber

    carlie> I think sundials do, don’t they?

  79. 79
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Eamon Knight

    A moment’s visualization should convince you that, if they went the other way, entering and exiting vehicles would cross each others’ paths.

    I learned this the hard way, late one night on a roundabout in Holland. I had recently returned from England and, going about the roundabout the “correct” way, was approached by another car heading straight at me. After screaming abuse at the other idiot, I worked out that it was probably better to hammer the brakes than apportion blame. Father Chrismas (actually St Nicholaas), sitting next to me, than proceded to loudly explain that we were actually in the wrong. I was dressed in Medieval jester garb, so it all ended well.

  80. 80
    chigau (違う)

    *wipes a tear*
    theophontes #79
    What a loverly Xmas story.
    Bless our hearts, everyone.

  81. 81
    Eamon Knight

    Rowan Blaik @70

    We aim communicate as much of this evidence as we can, without overloading the place, or visitor, with signage / interpretation. We also want visitors to enjoy the place as much as the Darwins did living here!

    And in the case of a couple of Canadian tourists at least, you and your colleagues succeeded. Thank you all, for a day of fascination and enjoyment.

  82. 82
    Zeno

    Clockwise is NorthernHemispere-centric.

    In a way, I suppose. But for most mathematicians the counter-clockwise direction seems the more natural orientation. Unit circle anyone?

  83. 83
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Interesting. Thanks, Rowan Blaik! You win the thread, easily.

  84. 84
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    on one occasion squirrels ran up his leg and chased around his neck.

    This sounds unlikely, especially if Darwin sometimes hunted animals in the copse. What were the circumstances of this event, Mr. Blaik? The only one I can think of is if the squirrel was being pursued by a predator and desperate to escape. Oddly enough, I’d be more willing to accept the anecdote’s truth if it was supposed to have happened more than once- that one squirrel trusted or accepted Darwin enough to regularly climb on him seems less improbable than that such an event should happen once.

  85. 85
    Inaji

    This sounds unlikely

    You must not live around squirrels.

  86. 86
    chigau (違う)

    You must not live around squirrels.

    Seconded.

  87. 87
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    You must not live around squirrels.

    On the contrary, I live very close to grey squirrels in London. With people they are used to and who feed them regularly, they will approach very closely and even accept food from the hand, but I have never seen them climb onto people.
    However, the squirrels Darwin encountered would have been the much shyer red squirrel. In addition, Mr. Blaik says “on one occasion squirrels ran up his leg and chased around his neck”. As I said, I’d find it more believable that squirrels did this regularly than that it only happened once.

  88. 88
    rblaik

    Hi all,

    Thanks for all the comments – I’m a regular reader here, so appreciate it. I should say that I, Down House and English Heritage get a huge amount of support from Darwin scholars from around the world. A lot of the research that has been invaluable for the ongoing conservation of the site has come from the Cambridge University Library Manuscripts Department, AMNH and individuals such as Prof David Kohn and Darwin descendant Randal Keynes. Our work wouldn’t be possible without them.

    Re the squirrels:

    [...] He did not alter the time of his walks in winter, so that he was often out before sunrise, and before any labourers were astir. This early hour, and the quiet observant way in which he walked, often gave him chances of seeing animal life more closely than he could have in broad daylight. One day he met a fox quietly coming down the lane near the house to meet him, and he was close on the animal before he turned into the hedge. Another time in the Sand walk seeing two little squirrels playing on the walk, he stood quite still to watch them; They were chasing each other, and in their gambols, both of them ran up his back, and round his neck, much too the consternation of the mother who gave them chattering warning of their danger from the tree above – not that they were in reality ever safer in their lives. After his walk he would come back to his solitary breakfast, as none of us would be down by that time.

    Leonard – Notes on his father DAR 239.7:1 (unfortunately, not yet transcribed online – otherwise http://darwin.amnh.org/browse.php?mode=uc&id=72620)

    We’re only open at weekends through the winter so if any of you are keen, please do get in touch first if you’re planning a visit. Perhaps if PZ is coming to Oxford this coming August, we could organise some kind of group tour…

  89. 89
    lorn

    There is good reason that erratic behavior is often referred to as “squirrely”. Most of the time they are behave in the generally expected manner, but, when panicked, they can do exactly opposite of what seems logical and normal. On the other hand jumping on top of a predator trying to eat you and doing a jig on their head tend to freak out said predator, and it earns you points for style.

  90. 90
    rblaik

    As the original poster has pointed out on his blog, in all the excitement of posting here, I’ve actually got into a real muddle with directions. We think clockwise and not anti-clockwise. I’m very sorry for this. PZ, could you make corrections to my previous posts.

    For clarity, we think Darwin walked south to the copse and turned left (eastwards) at the junction, as I mentioned earlier. Apologies to everyone for the error!

    Rowan

  91. 91
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Thanks very much, Mr. Blaik. Squirrel kittens seem more likely than adults, and I’d believe Darwin himself before others.
    I visited Down House a few years ago, but it sounds as if it’s changed a lot since then.

  92. 92
    randay

    For those who asked about the turning of the clock in the northern or southern hemispheres. My mother has an old electric clock from the 40′s. I repaired it and it now works fine. One unusual thing. It doesn’t start when I plug it in. I have to spin a button on the back a couple of times to get it going. What’s unusual is that I have to spin the button clockwise for it to work correctly. As an experiment I spun it counter-clockwise and to my surprise the clock started running counter-clockwise. I wish I had a clock like that.

  93. 93
    Acolyte of Sagan

    90.
    rblaik
    23 November 2013 at 5:22 pm (UTC -6) Link to this comment

    As the original poster has pointed out on his blog, in all the excitement of posting here, I’ve actually got into a real muddle with directions. We think clockwise and not anti-clockwise. I’m very sorry for this. PZ, could you make corrections to my previous posts.

    For clarity, we think Darwin walked south to the copse and turned left (eastwards) at the junction, as I mentioned earlier. Apologies to everyone for the error!

    Rowan

    You were right first time. If he walked south then turned east, he would have to then turn north and then west to get back to his start-point, and that is an anti-clockwise route (on a clockface, south leads to the 6, turning east then runs back through 5, 4, 3, etc) . Clockwise would have to be N. E. S. W.

  94. 94
    Piotr Gąsiorowski

    However, the squirrels Darwin encountered would have been the much shyer red squirrel.

    Shyer? If you go to Łazienki Park in Warsaw (or any similar place in Poland) and sit on a bench or take a quiet stroll, red squirrels will be all over you in a matter of minutes. Here is a video of one such incident:

  95. 95
    Piotr Gąsiorowski

    (#87) However, the squirrels Darwin encountered would have been the much shyer red squirrel.

    Shyer? If you go to Łazienki Park in Warsaw (or any similar place in Poland) and sit on a bench or take a quiet stroll, red squirrels will be all over you in a matter of minutes. Here is a video of one such incident:

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