Adam Savage on observation, thinking and scientific discoveries
Thing is, I’m a freak about this stuff. I love reading how Daniel Rutherford discovered Nitrogen using only whatever he could get his hands on in 1772. I love reading how Thomas Edison did scientific usability testing on silent films long before we did it on web pages. It’s fantastic to me how Darwin, building on a lifetime of painstakingly careful observation and research, figured out the basic idea of evolution before anyone even knew about genes. It’s awesome just to think about it.
What I try not to think about too much, because it makes me so sad, is how schools suck the life out of scientific discovery and make it into a dry subject. Maybe it’s part of our culture; you’re only allowed to get excited about sports I guess. But one thing the Internet has done for us is to give a platform for geek culture. We’ve been waiting to share the thrill we feel in discovery, in knowing stuff. Used to be, you were considered odd. Now you’re still considered odd, but you can look at Adam Savage and go “Yeah! Take that, people who think we should be all blase’ about the Universe!”
(Since Savage mentioned Eratosthenes, there’s a question that has always bothered me. For Eratosthenes to measure the differential angle of the sun between two cities a known distance apart, he had to know the moment at both cities. How did he get a signal from one city to another fast enough for the measurement to be useful? And if he did use a time-dependent method, might his accuracy have been helped by the coincidence that Alexandria is just an eyelash to the West of Due North from Swenet? Or did he simply figure the time at both cities using E/W solar angle then use the N/S solar angle to do his circumference calculation? Does anyone have a good link about that?)
(h/t @LesJenkins for the link)