Razib at Gene Expression
and Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish
discuss science vs. scientists.
I bring this up because many scientists believe that because science is such a superior method of extracting information about the world around us, and constructing predictive models which have been shown to have great utility, that that means that they as scientists can simply transfer their godlike powers to other domains with the greatest of ease. But as the above should make clear I believe this is a false perception, because the power of science arises from the intersection of the communal wisdom of tens of thousands of individuals over decades with the nature of the subject at hand. Granted, there are individual geniuses of great brilliance such as the great Isaac Newton, but the outcomes of his dabbling in alchemy and scriptural hermeneutics should go to illustrate that cognition applied to a fool's errand only results in glorious foolery.
The mediaeval western European church had hitched its wagon very tightly to the philosophy of Aristotle, and by extension to the astronomical model of Ptolemy. This caused Galileo no small amount of aggro. One of the greatest mathematicians and physicists of Mediaeval Islam, namely Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham
, (965-1040) encountered a similar problem.
Don't think you have time for science? Cracked.com ("America's Only Humor & Video Site, since 1958" - we've got humor and video here at Scientific Blogging, but we haven't been around since 1958), has a quick summary of 5 scientific theories that will make your head explode.
One of those theories is evolution:
We’re all familiar with the basics of evolution: that a munificent monkey-goddess birthed us all from Her banana-scented womb. But there are some lesser-discussed implications of natural selection that are just plain weird...
Scientific happenings, big and small, on this day in history
But first, today’s quiz:
What famous inventor, born on this day in 1871, will forever be famous for something he did for only 12 seconds? Think you know…? You might be right. To be sure check out the answer at the end of the article.
Every day is a historic day, as this column will attest. In the world of science, what has happened on this day? Here’s just a glimpse of some of the milestones, big and small, that have occurred on this date.
To start things off, here’s a little quiz:
What common item found in any toolbox, was patented by Solymon Merrick on August 17 in 1835? Don’t let it drive you “nuts”, the answer will appear at the end of the article.
In the meantime, here are some other happenings from this day in science history:
An academic from Swansea University’s History Department has received a research grant of £101,000 from the Wellcome Trust to investigate the history of medicine in Joseph Stalin’s concentration camps of the mid-twentieth century.
Dr Dan Healey’s project, entitled Medicine in the Gulag Archipelago, will be done in collaboration with Dr Kirill Rossianov of the Moscow Institute of the History of Natural Sciences and Technology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and focus on the history of medicine in the Soviet Union’s Gulag network of labor camps and will show how doctors and medicine were integral to these far-flung places of confinement during the 1930s to 1950s.
Brian May CBE, PhD, ARCS, FRAS, and a founding member of Queen, is a world-renowned guitarist, songwriter, producer and performer.
May abandoned his PhD studies at Imperial College London in 1974 when Queen’s popularity first exploded but always retained a keen interest in astronomy, and has been a regular contributor to “The Sky at Night,” BBC TV’s monthly astronomy program hosted by Sir Patrick Moore.
Returning to astrophysical research in 2006, he was awarded his PhD and is now Chancellor of John Moores University, and a patron to a number of charities, including the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the British Bone Marrow Donor Association.
When Sir Thomas More stood on the scaffold in 1535 he continued to make jokes. We don't often associate humor with executions by berserk kings over religious convictions but that is why humor has always fascinated us and it leads to questions about what is funny, how humor works at such moments, and when it is 'appropriate' to rely on a sense of humor.
Renaissance humor (1500-1700) comes under scrutiny at a conference at the University of Leicester on Friday 18th July, where experts in the literature of the period will gather for the first time to discuss Renaissance humor in some detail.
A flavor of humor of what the conference might have to offer can be found in Ben Jonson's Volpone (1607), in which Jonson's anti-hero, the miser and swindler Volpone, feels such contempt for the medical profession that he twists the English language into a glorious new direction, referring to a money-grabbing quack doctor as 'a turdy-facy, nasty-paty, lousy-fartical rogue.'
In my evolution course, I note that "Darwin spent 20 years working out his ideas and gathering evidence" before releasing On the Origin of Species in 1859. I don't say he "delayed" publication purposely, though in many cases this long period from idea to outcome has been attributed to fear of the reaction from the clergy, colleagues, society at large, his wife, etc. On this issue, a few bloggers have pointed to a recent essay by John van Wyhe (2007), in which it is argued that there was no delay based on fear, only a protracted writing period. Other historians do not necessarily agree, though the blogs I saw did not mention this. As Odling-Smee (2007) says,
...several Darwin scholars are not convinced.
"In the beginning" were more than just words — they were the beginning of printing presses and typography that brought new depths of meaning and creativity to language. For some designers and printers, the ultimate challenge is the Bible, the design of which could be affected by politics and religious beliefs, as well as by aesthetic and commercial concerns.
Patsy Watkins studied five bibles created from the mid-15th through the 20th centuries to see if the designers’ motives could be discerned within their design and typefaces. The Visual Communication Quarterly published her findings, “Designing the Holy Bible: Arguing the TEXT Through the Form,” in its latest issue devoted to typography.
She chose the Gutenberg Bible, the Martin Luther Bible, the Doves Press Bible, the Washburn College Bible and the Pennyroyal Caxton Press Bible. What she found was that form indeed revealed function as well as the designers’ desire to shape the meaning and hence a reader’s understanding of this ancient text.