Science History

Arctic Heroes #1 - Alfred Wegener

The history of Arctic and Antarctic exploration and discovery is filled with the names of heroes.  Many of those names get repeated over and over in popular writings on polar exploration.  Other names tend to get forgotten.  Here, in no particular order, I hope to write of some of these heroes, both remembered and forgotten.

Alfred_Wegener is most famous for his Theory of the Drift of the Continents.  He is less widely known for his enthusiastic contributions to climatology and meteorology, which led to his death on the Greenland ice sheet in 1930 under the most heroic circumstances.
This month a long time friend graduated with a PhD in science after 7 years of rather difficult studies beyond his master's degree. It was a big relief to him ending a period of weekend laboratories and late night study sessions. He passed the oral exams two months ago, and was left with only a few loose ends to tie up. Two pages of his dissertation had top margins that were a quarter inch too wide.

Remembering my own 23 years of college and some similar experiences along the way, I sent congratulations and included a copy of Albert Einstein's Ph.D. dissertation, with the hope that it would help to get the margins right.

In 1457 B.C. at Megiddo, named in the Bible Derekh Hayam (Hebrew: דרך הים), was fought the first battle remembered by military history.

In 1872 Charles Darwin completed what may be the first example of a prospective "single-blind" study of human perception of emotional expression.

Through scrutiny of Darwin's previously unpublished handwritten notes on his experiments, neuroscientists have demonstrated how this early experiment has direct implications to current work today in the areas of schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and other neuropsychiatric conditions.

The appears in the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences.
Science, outside some in the climate community (*), is anti-authoritarian.   There is no voting to create a consensus in science, no appeals to authority - science is vulnerable every single day of the year, to experiments, to revisions and to complete debunking by new generations of scientists who, like gun-slingers in the Old West, want to make their name taking down the big guys.   

Great thinkers like Einstein and Aristotle have been slain by the scientific method so it can happen to anyone - and that power is what made freedom possible, according to Timothy Ferris, emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, former editor of Rolling Stone magazine, and book author.
This must rank up there as the most bizarre holiday destination in the world.

Trinity is the location of the first nuclear test by the Manhattan Project. The world's first plutonium bomb was detonated there on 16 July 1945 - similar to the one dropped on Nagasaki. The site is now part of the White Sands Missile Range, and unbelievably is open to the public.

Well, almost open to the public! The nuclear tourist can visit Trinity on two days of the year; on the first Saturday in April and October. The next visitor day is thus on the 3rd April 2010 which falls on the Easter weekend. Note also that these days coincide with guided tours at the Very Large Array nearby.
Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar as it defines a number of theological doctrines. However, Easter has always been a movable feast which can take place on any date between 22 March and 25 April inclusive. The actual methods for calculating Easter have changed down the centuries and, whereas the Gregorian calendar is probably the simplest solar calendar we will ever have, the ecclesiastical calendar on which Easter is based seems to have got ever more obscure and intricate.
Baird : The Wonder Of Television

The following article was scanned by me from
"The Wonder Encyclopedia For Children"
Odhams, 1933.

Apart from minor adjustments to layout and removal of page references it is verbatim.
I present it here as a view from the past, when television was a brand new scientific achievement being presented as a new wonder to children and using the latest photographic illustration techniques. 

John Logie Baird describes broadcast television in his own words.



Electric Eyes that Scan the World


 Now here’s an interesting chap.
The Göttingen Academy of Sciences [1] was founded in 1751 with Albrecht von Haller (1708 – 1777) [2] as the main driving force in the setting it up.  He had very definite views on what an academy should be.  The historian Morris Kline writes:–
The Royal Mail has launched a Special issue commemorating the 350th Anniversary of The Royal Society. Ten specially-commissioned stamps have been issued showing some of the most famous scientist in the Royal Society's long history.

The question is... who are they? (and no peeking at the Royal Mail website!)