Science History

How would one detail in the past affect how technology and science evolved? The a recent blog I highlighted the unique role of fossil fuels in a transition from one energy sustainable society to another future potential society. I constructed the metaphor of this current transition as launching a rocket into orbit. The topic of what might have happened if oil never formed was addressed later.

How would one detail in the past affect how technology and science evolved?  This question comes up at many scales- sometimes personal introspection on what might have been or larger scale concerning world historical events.  It offers a way to do a thought experiment concerning the important aspects and how they are connected. However, the results might only be insightful but not definitive  because any  real experiment  can never be done.

Many people have predicted the end of fundamental physics.  Often these are at the end of great progress such as the late 19th century when classical physics was quite well understood, or in the midst of such a flurry of action when it seems like all the pieces are coming together such as in the 1920’s and 1930’s in nuclear and quantum physics.  Clearly, there are many mysteries and surprises yet to uncover in fundamental physics but is there a pattern in its historical progress that might indicate where we are in its completion.  This type of analysis (also called logistic analysis or learning “S” curve patterns) have been often observed in business and the rate of technology development, e.g., steam en

Carbon Cycles by Arvid G. Högbom

For centuries it was commonly believed that the Earth's climate is, and always has been, stable.  The idea that the climate, on the contrary, has always changed has its origins with Ignaz Venetz who, in 1821, laid the foundations of our modern knowledge of the ice ages.

The acceptance of glacial advance and retreat demands acceptance of a mechanism which will cause such events.  That mechanism is climate change.  The fact that our planet's climate has always changed is now a foundation - and a very sure foundation - of modern climate science.
The True Coin of Science

There is a way of 'doing science' which has long stood the test of time.  It doesn't matter how many people support a theory, or how eminent they may be.  Nullius in verba - take nobody's word as truth.

Nor is experimental 'proof' to be trusted, since the search for proof predisposes one to seek verification and validation of one's own biased view.  Experimental disproof is the key.  It takes only one well-conducted experiment to prove that a long held belief is false.

Robert Boyle explained this idea of experimental disproof in terms of coins, which in his day were of gold or silver.
Stephen Hales - Climate Science Pioneer

#3 in a series

Stephen Hales (1677-1761) was a clergyman who devoted much of his time to scientific pursuits, especially in conducting experiments in plant physiology.

His most important work, Vegetable Staticks (published in 1727), was in plant physiology. 
John Mayow - Climate Science Pioneer

#2 in a series.

Sir William Ramsay wrote an excellent history of the study of our atmosphere.  Below is the part of his book concerning John Mayow.  The previous part was about Robert Boyle.  The text courtesy is error-checked for typos.

Robert Boyle - Climate Science Pioneer

Apart from his experiments with the compression of gases, Robert Boyle deserves to be remembered for his proposals about 'unmingled bodies' (atoms), his promotion of the experimental method, his debunking of promoters of bad science, and his major contributions to our understanding of the atmosphere.

Robert Boyle lived in an age when men of learning were coming to reject what we now call pseudoscience. Alchemy was reformed into a protoscience by applying the experimental method, giving rise to what we now know as chemistry.

INPI - a treasure trove of French inventions

Do you have French ancestors?  Perhaps, somewhere in the archives, is a patent for something your ancestor invented.

INPI - Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle - France's National Institute of Industrial Property has just made a huge database of patents available for free public search.  In its own words - mostly -

INPI offers free access to a wealth of patents dating back to 1791.

Here you'll find detailed papers from the original records, from 1791 to 1871 including the corresponding images from 1791 to 1855 inclusive.

Eventually, the entire INPI heritage collection up to 1902 will be available.
The Kraken is perhaps the largest monster ever imagined by mankind. In Nordic folklore, it was said to haunt the seas from Norway through Iceland and all the way to Greenland.

The Kraken had a knack for harassing ships and many pseudoscientific reports (including official naval ones) said it would attack vessels with its strong arms. If this strategy failed, the beast would start swimming in circles around the ship, creating a fierce maelstrom to drag the vessel down.