I broke economics (with a water computer from 1949) - thinkfaststudio.com

I broke economics (with a water computer from 1949)

Atomic Frontier
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I went to Cambridge to revive a water computer that once modelled the British Economy.

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This video was brought to you by an unhealthy amount of coffee and our awesome Patrons at .

0:00 Introduction
0:19 Bill Phillips
1:17 How does it work?
5:38 What can it do?
8:34 Outroduction

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Hi, I’m James. I explore the world looking for interesting engineering stories which explore complex issues in interesting ways. I hold a First-Class Honors in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Western Australia and am currently studying a Masters of Space Systems Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My thesis will be ready when its ready™.

My website is , I occasionally tweet from , and you can join the Atomic Frontier Discord server to talk about cool engineering stuff at . You can help support my work and see some cool behind-the-scenes content at .


  1. And yet, no one still can make an economy work as intended… or maybe it’s all working as planned…😂

  2. Well if it makes you feel better it is not technically divide by zero because I doubt you could get the particle could to be zero, but a near number like 1×10-3 or something. But the proper answer is really inf anyway.

  3. this would have been a very expensive video in the states with those 3 eggs. I might have to donate to offset this huge expense 🙂

  4. Where is the Depreciation of Capital Goods and Durable Consumer Goods?

    How does the planned obsolescence of consumer goods affect cash flow?

  5. It would work a lot better if instead of measuring quantities of money, the water would represent labor and other resources

  6. thanks for using the totaly imaginary currancy of autralian dollars in your examples lol

  7. We know who broke the British economy now…

  8. Ohh your graphics are getting better and better! Love your videos! 🎉

  9. Oh hey look at that juggling skillz!! 🙌🙌🙌🌟

  10. I feel like the calculus to solve these equations would have been significantly easier than building this machine. However, I appreciate the good visuals it provides for teaching

  11. oh my God do I have to worry about pirates on the Charles River now

  12. bringing water anywhere near electric is incredibly dangerous.

    every year people are hurt or even killed by exposure to electric involving water.

  13. If it's a computer simulating Britain's economy, someone must make a doom port for it

  14. I love the tracked photos and text information being displayed while walking. It's very creative and just makes sense. Great video 👍🏻

  15. I hope you got paid in more than eggs to dress up like a pirate for that ad. Lol

  16. All I took away from this video is that I want an omelette

  17. I know little to nothing about economics, but from this video alone I can come to a clear conclusion. If this speeding market idea is followed through to its conclusion, it shows that the extremely wealthy are in complete control of the market speed. By the rate at which they invest in the market or in bonds. This also shows that taxing the wealthy will ONLY increase the speed of the market IF a majority of their income was being turned into bonds. A vast preponderance of whom certainly do not, as doing so would result in a dramatic slowing of their own income and inevitably their status as extremely wealthy. With the presumption being, as long as the market is overall continuously speeding up. This creates a clear correlation between taxing the wealthy and a slowing economy. That of which is, in doing so will inevitably crash the market.

  18. Any Terry Pratchett fans getting an extra kick out of this thing?

  19. Is that the thing that caused thatcher to become a disciple of the whole 'trickledown' bullshit ?

  20. the arrangement of this computer shows a certain obsolete view of the economy. why is income at the top?
    In reality monney comes to existance though the central bank, leveraged credits and government spendings. taxes and bonds are taking monney out of the system so it doesn't overflow.

  21. This strikes in idea in my head – could we forbid savings in general?

  22. Today, this computer should be made out of perforated plates.

  23. So, math (as well as economy) is like medicine and religions. Using fancy symbols and terms to complicate truth beyond comprehension.

  24. I remember the exxact moment I realised how complex economy is. I was maybe 10-12 sitting in school and using a program on a computer to simulate the economy (this was the 1980s).
    Anyway, one of the things to adjust was average life expectancy and I thought "Hey, let's let people live longer! Yay!", but then the expenditure on health care (this was in Europe, lol) skyrocketed because old people in general get sicker.
    Welp, that's my story. I'm not an economist today.

  25. Omg the joke about the price of a water bottle at Wembley 💀 Great video!!

  26. A clear demonstration of why those people who claim "governments need to spend less money to fix the economy" are either idiots or are those rich ratbags who are lying through their teeth because it's profitable for them.

  27. Found one at my University last week which is unfortunately non-functional. So glad I get to see it in action.

  28. I appreciate your approach to teaching.. To my understanding this just proves how much we need an edge as investors because playing the market like everyone else just isn’t good enough, we just need to hold onto our hopes and wait to see how things turn out because market movements are almost always unpredictable. In my portfolio, I'm noticing more red than green. I'm 47, and earn nothing less $150k per year, but nothing to show for it yet

  29. I mean you can easially devide by zero.

    Its just that the answer u get is negative infinity and positivie infinity which makes it undefined. You need to define which answer you want.

    So by defualt setttings calculators say its undf because you havent defined it yet

  30. How do you model me not regularly eating eggs suddenly wanting eggs during a supply crisis?

  31. Unexpected Alestorm! Makes me sad, I used to really enjoy them until it turned out Chris Bowes is a horrible garbage person

  32. basically the first Floating Point Unit…

  33. Without giving my uninformed an irrelevant (and TBH non-existent) opinion on whether Brexit is a good or bad idea in general (I'm guessing that for some things it's good; for others bad, but who am I to say?) one thing that keeps sticking in my head is that Britain was quite successful before Brexit if you look back far enough. (More successful than anyone else, even.)

    And then Britain began to become less successful than that, but before Brexit. For a while if you lived in other parts of the world, if you saw Made in England on something (other than a car, eventually) it meant it was probably your best option, even if it cost a bit more.

    And at some point Britain appeared from the outside to "wobble" perceptibly – to become fragile, rather than just exposed to new competition. It looked quite a lot like a disaster, but maybe it was all great viewed from the inside.

    And then it sort of levelled off.

    And then there was the joining the EU. Maybe things got better in Britain. Maybe that was even because it joined the EU. (I really don't know. All I know was that Made in England seems to simply not exist for most things, these days. I mean as a mark of quality. Obviously stuff still gets made in England.)

    And it looks like Britain is wobbling again after Brexit. And other stuff.

    That's the thing; there's always other stuff.

    So the thought I have is that the problem isn't so much with Brexit (good "excuse" – reason for avoiding uncomfortable thoughts) as it is with Britain.

    Maybe the problem is that Britain is broken, Brexit, or no Brexit. Too fragile to find its feet again if it returns to where it was before Brentry. i.e. That that fragility (and whatever causes it) is the problem.

    Now I come from a much more messed up country than Britain, where the feeling that if you've found out who's to blame, you've solved your problem seems to still be prevalent, so I'm not blaming anyone or any phenomenon for what might've happened in Britain. Blame us Useless. Forget whatever other attributes it has; it's Useless. You know nothing about tomorrow when you figure out how to apportion blame for yesterday. This is the kind of thing you learn from worse disasters than Brexit (or whatever it is Brexit is having to take the blame for.)

    If it's "Britain that's to blame", then focusing your attention on Brexit is focusing your attention on Not Having to Solve Your Problems (whatever the true problems are). It's a bad idea to invest too much in desiring one or the other thing being to blame, because that takes you away from the unpleasant job of actually Fixing what's Broken. (And given the general steady decline of Britain over many different trade policies, there would seem to be at least a good chance that there are other significant contributing factors to current problems, that are now being overlooked by people who prefer nice simple blame-answers that feel like they as good as solve the problems they don't solve.)

    Hey, maybe it's all just Brexit, and that's all there is to it. What do I know? (Apart from lots of direct experience of how blame fixes nothing, and creates new problems of its own). Just a thought: If there are other contributing factors, maybe they're not getting the attention they truly deserve, because this single issue is misdirecting peoples attention away from solution-space, and toward blame-space?

  34. Dividing by zero in digital computing generates an informational black hole. Dividing by zero in water computing generates Blackwater… BadumTsss…

  35. Investing in crypto now should be in every wise individuals list, in some months time you'll be ecstatic with the decision you made today.

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