How Forensic Seismology investigates into Ship-Disasters, Terrorist-Attacks and secret Nuclear Tests

The collision of the cruise ship “Costa Concordia” on January 13, 2012 was recorded by the seismograph station “Monte Argentario“, situated on the Italian mainland. From the eyewitness testimony and the Automatic System of the ship the time of collision with a submerged rock was estimated at 20:45 (UTC). This time is confirmed by a sudden peak in the seismogram at 20:45:10 (the seismograph station is distant 18km from the site of the collision, the seismic waves needed almost 3-4 seconds to travel this distance). The seismogram shows also after the impact the “noise” generated by the hull of the ship grinding along the rocky substrate. An accurate analysis of “The seismic quake of “Costa Concordia” can even specify the speed of the ship at the moment of the collision…
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Giants Shoulders #55: Three Days Left!

You have just three days to submit those #histsci, #histmed and #histtech blog posts to the history of science blog carnival Giants Shoulders’ #55 which will be hosted by Lisa Smith (@historybeagle) at The Sloane Letters Blog on 16th January.

You can make your submission either directly to the host or to me here at the Renaissance Mathematicus.

Giants Shoulders’, as always needs future hosts. If you desire to host the world’s one and only history of science blog carnival then contact me here.

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Christmas Trilogy 2012 Part III: What to do if your mother’s a witch.

Johannes Kepler certainly lived in interesting times in the sense of the old Chinese curse.  Born 27th December 1571 he lived through the most intensive phase of the Counter-Reformation being forced, as a Protestant living and working in Catholic territory, to abandoned his home and livelihood more than once. Trained as a Luther priest he served three Catholic Holy Roman Kaisers as mathematicus and the supreme commander of the Catholic forces in the thirty years war as an astrologus. Always walking along a knife-edge. The last twelve years of his life were dominated by that most devastating of European wars. He played a very central role in one of the greatest upheavals in the history of astronomy as well as redefining the science of physical optics. He lost his first wife and several of his children to sickness and was chronically and oft acutely ill all of his life. Paid at best on an irregular basis by his various employers he was often in desperate need of money. He also lived during the highpoint of the European witch craze in which tens of thousands of innocent people, mostly women, were persecuted, tortured and murdered and must experience how his own mother was tried for practicing witchcraft. [want to know more?]

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Christmas Trilogy 2012 Part II: Charles and Ada: A tale of genius or of exploitation?

This year Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fuelled by the Finding Ada website and twitter account took off big time. Now I have nothing against this celebration and have actively supported it on this blog for the last three years; writing about Emmy Noether in 2010, a quartet of lady astronomers in 2011 and the first female professor at a European university, Laura Brassi, in 2012. I have also posted on other women in the history of science on other occasions. This year I, by chance, also attended, but did not participate in, the edit-thron for STEM women on Wikipedia held at the Royal Society. As I have already said I have nothing against this celebration but as a historian of mathematics and computing each time I do so I have very major misgivings about the organisers choice of figurehead, Ada Lovelace. These qualms were strengthened this month on the tenth, Ada’s birthday, as an echo of Ada Lovelace Day set off a flurry of biographical posts throughout the Intertubes, some of them old and merely linked, others freshly written for the occasion. All of them however had one thing in common, they were not written from original or even well researched secondary sources but simply regurgitated older fundamentally flawed largely mythical short biographies. There is nothing new in what I’m going to say now, in fact I’ve blogged about it before as has one of The Guardian’s excellent lady historians of science Rebekah “Becky” Higgitt. Even the much-maligned Wikipedia gets it largely right in its Ada Lovelace article. All of the short biographies state clearly that Ada was a mathematician and “the first computer programmer”.  Both statements are wrong. So what is the truth?

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Christmas Trilogy 2012 Part I: Did Isaac really victimise Stephen?

Isaac Newton was not a nice man. When he was holding court in a London coffee house dispensing wisdom and his mathematical manuscripts to his acolytes he was probably friendly and magnanimous. Also, when he was chatting over breakfast with his housekeeper niece the society beauty, Catherine Barton, of whom he was very fond he was probably very charming. However when it came to defending his mathematical and philosophical theories against his scientific rivals he had the manners of a rabid wolverine on steroids. His intellectual wars with Robert Hooke, Gottfried Leibniz and John Flamsteed have become the stuff of history of science legends known, at least in outline, even to those only mildly interested in the subject. Frank Manuel in his psychological study of Newton described it thus. Newton regarded the natural world as his garden and it was his privilege and God given duty to uncover its secrets. Others who dared to do so were poachers infringing on his private property. However was Stephen Gray really one of his victims? David H. Clarke and Stephen P. H. Clarke (henceforth referred to as C2) thought so and wrote a whole book about it with the provocative title Newton’s TyrannyThe Suppressed Scientific Discoveries of Stephen Gray and John Flamsteed. [Were they right?]

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Pseudo-science, proto-science, pre-science or just plain science?

Having posted my recent article on the history of pseudo-science and science I went off to bed. Whilst I was wrapped in the arms of Morpheus an interesting little debate was taking place on my twitter stream. One of the participants thought that astrology and alchemy in the Early Modern Period should be considered as proto-sciences and not pseudo-sciences whereas his companion preferred the term pre-sciences. Their objection to the use of the term pseudo-science certainly has historical validity but if we are searching for a non-anachronistic substitute then as I answered in the morning, when I read their little debate, one should simply refer to them both as sciences. This discussion actually has a deeper meaning and I thought it might be of interest to take a closer look at the objections to the use of pseudo-science and my, for many people provocative, suggested solution.

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The History of Science Santa is early this year: Giants’ Shoulders #54 “A Sleigh Load of History” is up.

December’s host Michelle Ziegler, the history of science Santa, has put together a massive sleigh load of #histsci goodies at her blog Contagions in Giants’ Shoulders #54 to see you through the holiday season. So when you’ve polished off the goose and the plum pudding settle back with that box of pralines and enjoy the fruits of the best history of science bloggage from the last month. By the way Michelle is celebrating her third bloggaversary with this edition of Giants’ Shoulders so go on over and congratulate her on three years of excellent #histmed blogging.

Lisa Smith (@historybeagle) will take the history of science blog carnival into the New Year with Giants’ Shoulders #55 hosted on her The Sloane Letters Blog (that’s Sir Hans Sloane founder of the British Museum) on 16th January 2013. Always assuming that the apocalypse doesn’t take place next Friday. Submissions as always either direct to the host, or to Dr SkySkull at Skulls in the Stars or to me here at RM.

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