Friday, March 26, 2010


There is something about precision that touches the human soul.  We react with awe at precision of thought and word, of line and shape, of tolerances and balance of machinery, and of action and movement.  I doubt that any animal has the capacity to appreciate precision even when they are precisely doing things specific to their unique being.

This is a precision drill by the US Navy Presidential Ceremonial Honor Guard Drill Team that won a competition in Norway.  Precisely. (And yes, those are bayonets... I wonder how many stitches it took to get this routine down.)


nothinghypothetical said...

Worth watching, twice!

Alix said...

Goosebumps. For daily never to be matched precision, go and watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetary. And they do it in the rain, sleet, snow, hurricane force winds--when everyone else is under shelter.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

As long as I do not have to run the Divine Liturgy that way! I am nowhere near that coordinated. GRIN.

s-p said...

Fr. Ernesto, LOL! I think you might have to have a twinge of "obsessive compulsive disorder" to run a liturgy this precisely. So at least you are sane... :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the word you really want to use is accuracy. It refers to the degree of faithfulness to a (perfect) form.

Precision is something else altogether.

Understand the difference, and you understand much.

s-p said...

Anon, I wonder why they call them "Precision Drill Teams" and not "Accurate Drill Teams"?

Precision is usually used of numbers and instruments etc. to denote exactness of replicatability or closeness of things one to another in replications.
Precise: sharply exact or accurate or delimited; "a precise mind"; "specified a precise amount"; "arrived at the precise moment"

precise - accurate: (of ideas, images, representations, expressions) characterized by perfect conformity to fact or truth ; strictly correct; "a precise image"; "a precise measurement"

As my statistics prof used to say, "A difference that makes no difference is really no difference." I guess the difference at least in this case is lost on me. (I'd say, "and on the military too", but that leaves the door open for too many one liners... :)

Anonymous said...

right up my band-nerd alley!

Anonymous said...

Precision just sounds better, I guess.
I'm a metrologist, IOW a dweeb about such things. I have a bit of Orthodox analogia entisabout the difference, too.

Perhaps an illustration might help. Take a rough stick, about a yard long, with chalkmarked graduations every 1/4 inch. Compare it to a polished bar of steel that is 36.0000 inches long, traceable to a standard at the NIST.

The rough stick represents more precision, less accuracy, the bar is more accurate, but less precise.

We use wavelengths of light to measure and position things to a high degree of accuracy. If we use a light source with too long a wavelength, the instrument will not resolve sufficiently. We then use a light source with a shorter wavelength (more precision) to attain higher accuracy.

We use optical flats to gage flatness. These pieces of sapphire are flat within a millionth of an inch or so, but if a bacteria were to trek across one, he might think he were on a mountain range.

We like to say 'close enough for government work' or 'for rock 'n roll'. All good and well. But it's still infinitely far from the platonic form, depending on how close you zoom in.

Those that say there is a difference that makes no difference might do well to study chaos theory - strange attractors and butterflies.

s-p said...

Anon, Very cool! I've done a lot of contracting at Honeywell plants here in Phoenix and built some clean rooms for contraptions that use to design satellite systems. The tolerances required are incredibly minute and you have to deal with engineers and not plain architects which is why a lot of contractors don't like to do government work (even though that is usually used in the pejorative sense. :) It is interesting how the use of language even within similar disciplines (statistics) has levels of tolerance for accuracy. My stats teacher was within the discipline of human behavior research, and the axiom you mention applies to human beings and Orthodoxy: the more you zoom in the more differences you see.

Anonymous said...

s-p, I've had discussions with engineers who couldn't grasp the difference, but you get it.

Precision is more earthbound, accuracy is perfection, to extend the analogy.

Fr. Schmemann says that choice (resolution) has the danger of being reductionist, even heretical, when disconnected from the totality of faith.

I seem to remember a story where space engineers were converting instrument readings to metric and their calculations would've resulted in missing the moon by many miles because of rounding errors. Missing the mark in a linear system.

E. Lorenz explained how a tiny seed (number) creates large changes in non-linear dynamical systems, like weather and social human behavior. A butterfly in the Amazon creates a tornado in Texas. Perhaps how a filioque creates...