How To Deduce Like Watson

Remember this famous parody joke about Sherlock Holmes and Watson?

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of red wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep.

Some hours later Holmes woke up, nudged his faithful friend and said, "Watson, I want you to look up at the sky and tell me what you see."  Watson said, "I see millions and millions of stars."  Sherlock said, "And what does that tell you?"

After a minute or so of pondering Watson said, "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.  Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.  Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three in the morning.  Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant.  Metereologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day today.  What does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for about 30 seconds and said, "Watson, you idiot!  Someone has stolen our tent!"

On BBC Sherlock Holmes, The Hounds of Baskervilles, when Holmes, Watson, and Henry went out at night to look for the hound, Watson saw flashing lights.
He wrote the pattern of flashes down, believing it to be a message in Morse code.
If read as Morse dots and dashes, the flashing lights spelled out “UMQRA.”

Watson thought this might be a clue that related to the mystery of the hound.

When he investigated the source of the flashing lights later, though, Watson found that it had never really been Morse code. It was just random flashes of headlights caused by people who were dogging, a different kind of canine activity.

The idea of Watson seeing a signal sent with light at night was inspired by a similar situation in the book The Hounds of Baskerville was based on.

From The Hound of the Baskervilles:

“I was doing no harm, sir. I was holding a candle to the window.”
“And why were you holding a candle to the window?”
“Don’t ask me, Sir Henry—don’t ask me! I give you my word, sir, that it is not my secret, and that I cannot tell it. If it concerned no one but myself I would not try to keep it from you.”
A sudden idea occurred to me, and I took the candle from the trembling hand of the butler.

“He must have been holding it as a signal,” said I. “Let us see if there is any answer.” I held it as he had done, and stared out into the darkness of the night. Vaguely I could discern the black bank of the trees and the lighter expanse of the moor, for the moon was behind the clouds. And then I gave a cry of exultation, for a tiny pin-point of yellow light had suddenly transfixed the dark veil, and glowed steadily in the centre of the black square framed by the window.


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