Popular science writing today can be hit and miss. It can be truly awful; such as Brian Greene’s immensely dull Elegant Universe, Stephen Jay Gould’s idiosyncratically waffley Rocks of Ages, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb's misguided and rushed Black Swan (in my humble opinion). But it can be utterly sublime, such as Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestors Tale (his magum opus, in my opinion), Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of time, and Carl Sagan’s The Cosmic Connection.
Good popular science books like these are engaging, unpretentious, and inspirational, but most of all, clever, witty, and humorous. You could argue with me on this one, but simply saying that the science will speak for itself is not good enough. I could just as well go read a nice thick textbook.
Ibn al-Haytham can be called the father of modern optics. His 11th-century Book of Optics, which was published 1000 years ago, is considered by some to be in the same league as Newton's Principia regarding its influence in physics, yet very little is known about the writer.
In the category of lesser-known holidays that could be celebrated on December 25th, the coronation of William of Normandy in 1066 A.D. as first King of what we know as modern England would have to be considered. It was the last time a foreign nation would conquer the island nation and years later the Brits gave us all Shakespeare, Christmas Island and America.
... India, actually.
Today, Wikipedia flagged up a new article, Coffee production in India
, with a interesting piece of history. Quoting in full from the article:
A Waymark Called Hvitsark
The Vikings did not use charts and instruments to navigate the open seas. Having developed skills in coastal navigation they extended those skills to pelagic navigation, or 'island-hopping'. Using the sun as a reference to determine where south lies, the Vikings could sail a reasonably accurate course. If the wind was steady, the wind itself could be used as an aid to direction if the sun was hidden by heavy cloud. It was only when wind and sun both failed the navigator that he was likely to miss his mark.A Viking ship sailing on a beam reach.
Screenshot from The Vikings
At The Hazard Of His Ears
What has the hazard of a person's ears to do with science history?
The history of Arctic science, exploration and discovery is sprinkled with many as yet unsolved mysteries, many concerning the meanings of words in old documents. In this, the first article in a short series, I present my thoughts on some of these mysteries for discussion. By clarifying an obscure passage in an old document we may add to its credibility as a source of historical or scientific data. Thus the solving of these mysteries will - I suggest - add to our knowledge of Arctic history, and hence of Arctic science.
Having read the biography of Oliver Heaviside
, I remain aware that I am not really au fait
with inductance as I am with resistance and capacitance. Searching without much success for a textbook that would explain it in a way I could understand, I came upon A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism - Volume 2
by James Clerk Maxwell. Turning to the relevant section, my eye fell upon this:
“England is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, anomalies.”
So wrote George Santayana http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Santayana
Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick shared a lab from 1956 to 1977 and in boxes of papers donated to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library, some choice bits of biology history were discovered and Nature was first with the story
. Crick thought his earlier personal papers had been thrown out by a secretary, but it turns out some still existed and had been mixed with Brenner's.
Even though Halley's Comet has a regular orbit it's not an easy task to map its appearances throughout history - and it may be that one of those appearances matches an ancient Greek testimony and has only now been realized, write Daniel W. Graham and Eric Hintz in the Journal of Cosmology, which would make it the first scientific claim about the famous extraterrestrial event.
In 1705, Edmond Halley used Newtonian theory and predicted the return of a comet seen in 1682. It did return as predicted, in 1758, putting Halley on the stellar map and driving a stake into the evil hearts of competing theories to Newton.