Science History

Thought experiments are mental exercises, or imaginative experiments, which are often not possible to perform with current technology. They appear to be particularly popular in physics and philosophy, but are by no means limited to these two fields. There are a couple of thought experiments that employ demons. After all, an imaginary entity with awesome powers can be quite useful in a thought experiment, can’t it?

      

Three of the most famous thought experiments that center around a demon with amazing capabilities, are:


Descartes’ Evil Demon


History Mystery #3 - Land, Law and Science

"Words are to the Anthropologist what rolled pebbles are to the Geologist — battered relics of past ages often containing within them indelible records capable of intelligent interpretation..."
John Herschel
History Mysteries #2 - The Sawdust Coast

According to Peter Freuchen, writing of his travels in Siberia, circa 1936,  the tundra coast near Tiksi in the Lena Delta was fringed with logs and the sea bottom contained "hundreds of thousands of years of sawdust".  To the best of my knowledge, this remarkable phenomenon - a Siberian 'sawdust coast' - has never been studied scientifically.


Peter Freuchen

Peter Freuchen was a scientist.  However, for much of his life he was known to various people according to the various talents which make him seem like a character from a work of fiction.
History Mysteries #1 - Who Shot The Tomatoes?
or
The Astonishment of a Sailor on Finding Buckshot in His Portion of Tomatoes.


Hidden in the details of the Jeannette Expedition one finds a factor in common with the Franklin Expedition: lead poisoning.


The Jeannette Expedition

Now we come to the second part of the series

Botany: A Blooming History


entitled

History, Science and the TMT Boundary


To the extent that written records show political, religious or other personal bias, it may be truly said that history is bunk.  Or we may say with Henry Ford that history - as a list of dates of political events - is bunk.  But if we take the term 'history' as inclusive of everything known about the past that has a bearing on our current collective human knowledge, then history is a most valuable asset.
What do Ivan Pavlov, Guglielmo Marconi and Thomas Edison all have in common?  Not much, you might think - but after the creation of General Electric’s first Global Research Laboratory in the barn behind Chief Engineer Charles Steinmetz’s house in Schenectady, NY, numerous top scientists began to visit to see what GE was working on next.

MIT Chemistry professor Wilis Whitney was hired as the Global Research Laboratory's first director and each famous mind that visited would stop to sign the VIP guest book, which he kept at that desk from 1914 to 1935.  The signatures are a veritable Who’s Who of inventors, physicists, chemists, physiologists, and businessmen of the period.
It's common practice among learned people that, the more educated the company, the more obscure the lists of people they will invent any time there is a question about history.   Science may be universally quantifiable but history of science is quite subjective.   So on a site where we all extol Al-Khwarizmi,  Pietro Monti, Zu Chongzhi,  Ibn al-Haytham and too many others to count in our quest to be thorough, I am going to make a bold claim sure to infuriate historians and nationalists from many countries, including America; some of the greatest scientists of any age were all in one place, at one time, and that place was Britain.
I had a question posed to me last week; 'what was the first science experiment?'
Not many plumbers become known worldwide for significant fossil discoveries but self-taught paleontologist and archaeologist Harley Garbani did just that, finding skulls of the youngest-known Tyrannosaurus rex and the youngest-known Triceratops in a distinguished citizen science career.

His finds are on display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the University of California Museum of Paleontology and other places.   Garbani was citizen science before it needed a name - a time when scientists were not primarily academics.    Mostly he liked to hunt  for fossils in the Badlands and his knowledge was based on experience.