Defined by its similarity to or effect on something

Describing wind direction has long been a puzzle to me. Such as mentioning clouds moving NNE. Is that the direction they are going or the direction they are coming from. I would think that means the direction they are going to.

It took me many months to decide that the official wind direction on Intellicast weather describes the direction the wind is coming from. That is, facing the described direction, like North or 360º, would be facing into the wind.

Yet my earlier thought was that the direction named was the direction the wind - and thus the clouds motion too - was going to. It would be the direction something would tend to be pushed by the wind. But apparently that is not the official meaning of wind direction.

Thus a North wind would tend to bring colder temperatures, and a South wind would tend to bring warmer temperatures. It is the description of the direction the wind is coming from, thus the opposite of the direction that the wind pushes stuff.

The question is important for accurate communication.

A similar confusion is one I had for a long time about a magnet's pole's polarity. Eventually I found that my confusion between opposites, was well founded, since the scientific definition of the poles on a magnet, is the opposite direction from the magnetic pole definition among the alternative health people, who make the more intuitive definition that the north-pole on a magnet is the same polarity as the Earth's north-pole's polarity is. Thus it is always easy to measure the polarity of a magnet on hand, by loosely dangling it so it can rotate freely, and it will line up to match the magnetic field that is being provided by the planet at that place.

But that polarity is the opposite to the definition of magnetic polarity as used in scientific measurements, which says the North pole of a dangled magnet faces North in the Earth's magnetic field. 

It seems to me that it is a function of perspective. Is something defined by its similarity to something else, or by the effect it has on other things, is the question.

When there is such confusion regarding such basic and measurable things like wind direction and magnetic polarity, no wonder people don't always communicate to each other accurately about other kinds of things too.


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