Categories
Press and Pop Culture

Tacit Knowledge in Science

A recent NPR article reported on the team of craftsmen and technicians who are grinding the mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope. While the entire article is interesting, what is particularly interesting to me is that it reveals the importance of tacit knowledge in making even the most technical instruments. See my post at PACHS: […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

The Ever Fascinating Astrolabe

The astrolabe is a fascinating medieval astronomical/astrological instrument. The replica I have always attracts students’ attention when I bring it into class and we talk about how scientific knowledge is embodied in technical instruments. We work through how use the astrolabe to tell time, find the positions of stars, the elevation of buildings. We also […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

The Politics of Time and Date

The last couple of days have seen a number of articles on the “leap second,” this otherwise unremarkable second that we agree to insert every now and then to keep atomic clocks in sync with the rotation of the earth. The decision yesterday to postpone making a decision sounds a lot like early modern efforts […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Retro-Diagnosing Fictional Plagues

Teaching a course on plagues and epidemics in history makes me more aware than normal of press reports about some group of scientists trying to retro-diagnose some historical plague or epidemic (Find a description of this course and a link to the syllabus on my Recent Courses page). There seems to have been a rash […]