More on Copernicus


There’s a good post up at The Renaissance Mathematicus by Thony C. He dis­agrees with me about Copernicus and ellipses for the very good reason that Kepler had a big advant­age over Copernicus. Kepler had access to Tycho Brahe’s data. Tycho massively improved the accur­acy of obser­va­tions. Thony C. also argues that accur­acy was the goal — quite reas­on­ably given why Copernicus wanted to revise the Ptolemaic sys­tem. Therefore the increased accur­acy would be enough win over people in the astro­nom­ical community.

I’m not sure to what extent the astro­nom­ical com­munity were in step with pub­lic opin­ion in the Renaissance. There are reas­ons to say astro­nom­ical spec­u­la­tion was freely passing into the wider cul­ture of the time. Possibly it means that if there had been bet­ter data one of the big set-pieces of Religion vs. Science wouldn’t have happened. That’s not some­thing I’d want to defend too strongly, but it shows that a rigid view of Science fight­ing Religion is going to give a you nar­row view of the past.

This month I’ve mainly been working on Project SOAR


Project SOAR is a rethink of what stu­dent read­ing lists mean. My con­tri­bu­tion to has been fid­dling with the code. Some of it has been adapt­ing the lay­out and some o it is behind the scenes like tying entries on books to other sites and plug­ging in the review sys­tem. It’s been a good pro­ject to work on. Partly because Alan Cann has inter­est­ing ideas about what can be done with read­ing lists. More prac­tic­ally he’s also been very clear on what he wants done with the site, so I’ve never felt like I’ve been aim­ing at a mov­ing target.

It’s also been very fast. My role was sched­uled to start November 1. I actu­ally star­ted as soon as I heard fund­ing had been approved, but even so it’s been a short pro­ject with a clear goal. Because it’s his pro­ject, you can read more about it at his site.

If I were a publisher I’d want to sign up Brett Holman to write a book on Scareships


Brett Holman at Airminded has returned to the topic of Scareships. These mys­ter­i­ous torpedo-shaped objects with lights were spot­ted in the skies dur­ing the late nine­teenth and early twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Now he has three posts on Scareships over Australia, with a post­script promised.

I’m sure he already has plenty to do, but to me this has all the clas­sic ingredi­ents of a blog-to-book deal. It’s a fas­cin­at­ing topic, the I can’t recall any­one else cov­er­ing. It’s writ­ten well and it’s got someone who really knows what they’re talk­ing about doing the writ­ing. Like Kevin Levin’s work on Black Confederates, it’s the kind of stuff that thought­ful, innov­at­ive and just plain inter­est­ing research is being pro­duced on blogs.