Curiosity (PDF)

Democratic Art eTo slog through itven for me and I m pretty patient with boring science history stuff Review title What do we really want to knowAuthor Ball frames a fascinating subject what do we want to know what should we want to know what is and isn t appropriate to know What does science want to know and why what does theology want us to know what to accept by faith and what never to uestion All of these uestions Ball categorizes as curiosity in this deep and sometimes too dense study of the history of science and the scientific revolution which Ball states was neitherIn part as a corrective for those who believe that science developed out of and distinct from magic alchemy and natural philosophy in a small defined set of Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? events in clear contrast to those past and concurrent ways of thinking Ball shows how these ways of thinking all overlapped and intertwined in their subject matter and methods Ball documents howarly thinkers now adopted as founding figures of science such as Galileo Newton and Robert Boyle who made a clear break with the unscientific past actually thought in ways and studied subjects congruent with their alchemical peers He also traces philosophies of appropriate areas of study back to Aristotle and Plato and shows how much influence these ancient Greek philosophers still carried in intellectual life centuries later As the definition of curiosity broadened the allowable and patron approved and funded areas of study xpanded in the fertile span of years from the 16th to the 18th centuries that are at the core of Ball s historyThe subject matter is sometimes better than Ball s approach to it While he throws out names uotes sources and historical allusions in dense arguments and rapid and sometimes confusing transitions his central uestions can be boiled down to this1 What was allowable and would be funded The church and the governments and kings it both owned and answered to had a large part to say in answer to this uestion Science ven before the days of big science cost money and needed royal approval to proceed unhindered Government church authorities and wealthy patrons could provide or withhold as the church did from Galileo these vital necessities and also direct how they were used Ball talks about the cabinets of curiosities wealthy collectors assembled to satisfy their own curiosities and shows how these data collection Codependent Forevermore: The Invention of Self in a Twelve Step Group efforts sometimes drove science and sometimes favored magical and alchemical displays of wonder and sometimes the recipients of the finding or the collections moved freely between both ways of thinking2 What did the thinkers themselves consider worthy of curiousity What did they want to know The answer was sometimesverything which some thinkers considered indiscriminate collection that wasted precious money and brainpower In contrast Ball uotes Francis BaconGod has framed the mind like a glass capable of the image of the universe and desirous to receive it as the ye to receive light and thus it "is not only pleased with the variety and "not only pleased with the variety and of things but also ndeavours to find out the laws they observe in their changes and alterationsThis uote powerfully amplifies the philosophy that I spouse in The catholic reader the lunchcom website where I post my reviews On the other side were those proto scientists included who wanted to drill down on specific topics with deeper focus and increasingly specialized instruments like microscopes telescopes and air pumps This approach brought counter arguments traced by Ball some "satirical on stage and humorous in print such as this one liner All "on stage and humorous in print such as this one liner All is based on two things only curiosity and poor yesight the trouble is we want to know than we can see But it also Pansy Vol. 6 engaged new worlds for investigation as telescopes opened up the solar system and microscopes revealed whole universes of new data for study closer at handAs I said Ball s reach canxceed his grasp as the fascinating topics sometimes bog down in meandering writing that is too dense for the lay reader to follow But if the title and topic and hopefully this review as well peak your curiosity indulge it here Curiosity was considered a vice in the middle ages and before It is a cardinal virtue in science these days It is a term of praise This book takes a look at the scientific revolution in the 17th century and charts the rising fortunes of curiosity and wonder This is also a good history of the scientific revolution with a large cast Galileo Kepler Newton Bacon Boyle Hooke Lippershays Pepys and almost very notable natural philosopher of the time This is a crucial period in Western civilization and ultimately world civilization "We slowly formed from pre scientific superstition and scholasticism the beginings of the scientific world view Philip Ball keeps the story " slowly formed from pre scientific superstition and scholasticism the beginings of the scientific world view Philip Ball keeps the story by showing the relationships between these people as they hammered out the modern world why is the sea salty have animals souls or intelligence has opinion its foundation in the animate body why do human beings not have horns how is it that sound in its passage makes its way through any obstacle whatever how is it that joy can be the cause of tears why are the fingers of uneual length why if you have intercourse with a woman after she has lain with a leper will you catch the disease while she will scape what reason is there for the universality of death why do we need food so freuently or at all why are the living afraid of the bodies of the dead ho. Be no uestion too vast or too trivial to be ruled out of bounds Why can fleas jump so high What is gravity What shape are clouds Today curiosity is no longer reviled but celebratedExamining how our inuisitive impulse first became sanctioned changing from a vice to a virtue Curiosity begins with the age when modern science began a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton It reveal. A mixed bag for me Some chapters were fascinating others dull or misleading The best parts were Ball s takes on the literary responses to the scientific revolution in England chapters 8 and 12 first the slew of Moone books that appeared starting in the 1630s speculating about the possibility of life on the moon second the satirical tradition that Elizabeth I emerged in the later part of the 17th century as a reaction to virtuoso Whiggish Puritan culture the last and most f I must admit that this book s best uality is probably the author s ambivalence about what he is talking about To be sure I have a very different perspective on science and curiosity and their larger cultural matters and this book does a good job at reminding the reader if such a reminder is necessary that science has always carried with it a large amount of baggage relating to the larger culture and its own ideas and belief systems Had the author not been deeply interested in science he likely would have never written this book and certainly would not have adopted the standard scientific beliefs involution and the praise of Darwin and other figures that is to be assumed in such books as this Yet the author is intellectually honest Education in a New Society enough not to want to pass off hagiography on Galileo and other figures but to address their complex and often idiosyncratic beliefs and practices openly and honestly showing that scientists have always been somewhat odd and that the scientificnterprise has always sat uneasily with related societal concerns about the value of curiosity on its own terms the desire for science to further useful aims and to serve the interests of power and the uestion of magic and religion as well as the negative relationship between science and social conservatismThis particular book is than 400 pages and begins with a preface which only hints at the rich detail about science and scientists that the book contains After that the author looks at the old uestions of the Education in a New Society: Renewing the Sociology of Education early modern period that related to ancient authorities and the hostility of ancient culture to curiosity 1 After that the authorxamines secret academies of hermetic studies 2 curiosity 3 as well as the ambivalent view of mankind s uest for knowledge and immoral freedom 4 The author discusses the ideal of the Renaissance polymath 5 as well as the xpansion of knowledge that came from xploration 6 and the problem of cosmology 7 There are chapters on The Baby Swap Miracle early science fiction related to space travel 8 the simultaneously free and bound nature of creation 9 and thearly research on microscopes 10 Finally the author looks at research into optics 11 the view of scientists in popular culture at the time 12 and the way that curiosity became cold as scientists sought legitimacy for their research 13 after which the author includes a cast of characters notes a bibliography image credits and an indexThe author s ambivalence towards the larger culture and his awareness of the problematic nature of the scientific nterprise both in history and at present allowed me to better understand my own ambivalence to that scientific nterprise The author points out that the search for freedom of curiosity has often involved an interest in scaping sexual restraint and has pointed out that scientists have often presented themselves as privileged and unaccountable lites with soteric knowledge that is difficult to replicate and that is inaccessible *to common people Science s relationship with the xploitation of human and physical creation and the connection of curiosity to profit *common people Science s relationship with the xploitation of human and physical creation and the connection of curiosity to profit are also areas the "author appears to be uncomfortable but also honest about All of this adds "appears to be uncomfortable but also honest about All of this adds to a history of curiosity s role in science that is deeply interesting and also deeply revealing As someone with a high view of teleology and a low view both of scientific pretensions as well as the aristocratic pretensions of foppish ignorance there are plenty of perspectives shown here that I can relate to And that ability to relate to the people of the past despite the fact that we "live in a very different time ourselves that marks the real achievement of the author in presenting "in a very different time ourselves that marks the real achievement of the author in presenting humanity and complexity of past figures in the history of science that also reveals us to be less rational and less removed from the debates of the past than we would like to fancy ourselves We may not live in this past but the past lives in us If ver there was a book I should give 5 to this is it Unfortunately it is superbly written from a syntax standpoint but totally unengaging If anything it is a 3 dB tougher read than Vom Kreig The subject is not only Gender Justice enthralling but critically important to our civilization Admittedly it is complex so the author can be forgiven IMHO for not uite managing to integrate a story I recommend this strongly for any scientist who is an actual nerd and not just a careerist geek A great history of the so called scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries Hexamines the main characters and ideas in the revolution and their cultural context It s pretty academic in tone which is okay but it s far of a history book than a book about the Generations and Collective Memory evolution of curiosity There are sections on curiosity how it went from being sacrilegious to being necessary for the learning about the world around us But I guess it was heavier with history and philosophical debate than I wasxpecting from the ditorial summary I still learned a lot and am glad I read it but it was tough. There was a time when curiosity was condemned To be curious was to delve into matters that didn't concern you after all the original sin stemmed from a desire for forbidden knowledge Through curiosity our innocence was lostYet this hasn't deterred us Today we spend vast sums trying to recreate the first instants of creation in particle accelerators out of pure desire to know There seems now to. W is the globe supported in the middle of the air why does the inflow of the rivers not increase the bulk of the ocean why if a vessel be full and its lower part open does water not issue from it unless the upper lid be first removed when one atom is moved are all moved since whatever is in a state of motion moves something lse thus setting up infinite motion why do winds travel along the From Notes to Narrative earth s surface and not in an upward direction why does a sort of perpetual shadow brood over the moon granted that the stars are alive on what food do they live ought we regard the cosmos as an inanimate body a living thing or a god Adelard of Bath c1120 This review first appeared on my blog hereHistories of what is known as the scientific revolutionspecially those who are writing for a popular audience tend to portray the development of modern science as something new a break from past thought about the world rather than a continuation of it It is as though despite Newton s oft uoted remark about the shoulders of giants the ideas of Copernicus Galileo Descartes and Newton and others in other fields came out of nowhere Inconvenient facts which show the continuing influence of Guitar Makers: The Endurance of Artisanal Values in North America earlier ideas such as Newton s interest in alchemy are left out or mentioned in passing in anmbarrassed mannerThe purpose of Ball s book is to show something of the continuous nature of the development of the philosophical ideas which led to the seventeenth century appearance of modern science in God's Choice: The Total World of a Fundamentalist Christian School embryonic form Ostensibly he does this by looking at the concept of curiosity how it has changed its meaning and how attitudes towards it changed from the common medieval opinion that it was to be discouraged as likely to lead to heretical thought if uncheckedI say ostensibly becauseven though the discussion of curiosity is important it did not feel to me that it was the sole focus of the book Apart from anything Hard Bread (Phoenix Poets (Paper)) else Ball is happy to go off on interesting tangents such as the long chapter on seventeenth century ideas about the possibility of life on the moon sparked by Galileo s observations of features similar if a certain amount of wishful thinking was used toarthly terrain as opposed to being a featureless perfect sphere and by the nsuing publication of Kepler s novel Somnium The Dream or Posthumous Work on Lunar Astronomy At least it seems like that is what is happening when the reader starts the chapter in fact it is the first of a series of what are basically case studies xamination of some of the popular scientific crazes of the seventeenth century a theme which would make a fascinating book in itselfThere are occasional places where I suspect Ball assumes knowledge in his readership than might be sensible for xample he uses the term Whiggish of historical accounts without xplaining its meaning It s reasonably clear from the context but could asily confuse anyone who hasn t an interest in the theory of historical writing such as someone interested from the science side of things rather than the history side It is by the way a somewhat derogatory term for old fashioned narrative history which treats the past as a "NOVEL FROM A ONE SIDED POINT "from a one sided point view specially one which paints the individuals as heroes and villains In general though the Fragments explanations of what people were doing what they intended how this fitted into the history of science andspecially the development of the philosophy of science are admirably clearCuriosity is well worth reading Foundations of Tropical Forest Biology: Classic Papers with Commentaries especially if yourxposure to history of arly modern science is so far limited to the traditional version with heroes and villains painted in black and white terms The narrative might become complicated than you had previously thought but then the real world is like that This took me such a long time to get into that I decided to abandon it The language was often dense and lofty which made the first chapters nearly inaccessible for me Plus the opening is mostly hair splitting about what the word curiosity meant in a variety of cultures contexts and languages So I was doing a lot of mental wandering and zoning out needing to up and "start pages paragraphs and sentences over Later on though when Ball finally gets to individual instances players in the "pages paragraphs and sentences over Later on though when Ball finally gets to individual instances and players in the of scientific literacy That s when this took off and became njoyable But you have to sit through a lot of droning first and it never really clicked for me interest wise3 stars out of 5 Not my favorite Pop Science author by a long shot It is curious indeed that a curious person like me never thought that curiosity has a history I thought curiosity was something we re born with Indeed ven my dogs are curious as were the racoon babies peering at us as we walked by their nest in the porch of a house in the middle of an inner city neighborhoodCuriously not only has curiosity got a history curiosity had been looked down upon by church and state The history of curiosity is the history of science in the Western World I love the history of science but after the first 200 or so pages curiously I was sick of curious peopleCuriously this is because Ball feels the need to mention such minor curious men that I never heard of Not so curiously I did know of the major and some minor curious men However curious as I am my curiosity failed me as the list of curious thinkers grew and the objects of their curiosity became curiously trivial In short this is well researched and well written but ultimately borin. S a complex story in which the liberation and the taming of curiosity was linked to magic religion literature travel trade and mpireBy xamining the rise of curiosity we can ask what has become of it today how it functions in science how it is spun and packaged and sold how well it is being sustained and honoured and how the changing shape of science influences the kinds of uestions it may as.

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