Sunday, December 12, 2010

Once More Down the Memory-Hole

More on “Truth-Decay”.
Not trying to beat up on science, here, but simply in today’s random reading, another significant example of scientific amnesia cropped up.

Edward Harrison wrote a whole book on (the misnamed) “Olbers’ Paradox”, Darkness at Night.  In his book Cosmology (2nd edn. 2000, p. 503), he comments:
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of “Olbers’ Paradox” is not its discovery several hundred years before Olbers, but that Kelvin’s definitive work was totally overlooked and never once referred to in numerous subsequent discussions by scientists and historians.
Among those who anticipated Kelvin’s 1901 solution, Harrison cites Edgar Allen Poe (from 1848), of all people.  An anticipation of the problem goes back to Lucretius.

Harrison also quotes Stanley Jaki’s book The Paradox of Olbers’ Paradox:
Olbers’ paradox is not Olbers’, nor is it Halley’s.  It is the paradox of the unscientific habits of scientific workers and writers.  For it is no small matter that some scientists can be shockingly careless when it comes to the presentation of a detail of scientific history.

~ ~ ~

No blood is spilt over Olbers.  But Gus ‘Bud’ Broward pointed me to a highly interesting article with a similar point, in an area I shall not even name, so fraught is it with controversy, lest this site be indexed with it, and the crazies come:

Please, no flames.  I have no ax to grind on any subject rhyming with “maids” -- not so much as a pair of pinking shears.   The focus of discussion is the scientific method.

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