History of Science

Category archives for History of Science

One of the very best books I ran across in the process of doing research for Eureka is The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics by Robert P. Crease and Charles C. Mann. It’s an extremely detailed treatment of the development of quantum theory, and includes anecdotes that I haven’t seen elsewhere.…

Another weekend day, another story I’m going to outsource a bit. In this case, to the original scientist, who at the time of his discovery was a 13-year-old schoolboy in Tanzania: In 1963, when I was in form 3 in Magamba Secondary School, Tanzania, I used to make ice-cream. The boys at the school do…

We’re going to depart from the chronological ordering again, because it’s the weekend and I have to do a bunch of stuff with the kids. Which means I’m in search of a story I can outsource… In this case, I’m outsourcing to myself– this is a genuine out-take from Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, specifically…

As I endlessly repeat, I’m an experimentalist by training an inclination, so I especially appreciate stories about experimental science. There’s something particularly wonderful about the moment when an experiment clicks together, usually after weeks or months of hard, frustrating work, when things just keep breaking. Of course, sometimes, breaking stuff can be a Good Thing.…

The winter solstice holidays are a time for family and togetherness, so building off yesterday’s post about the great Marie Skłodowska Curie, we’ll stay together with her family. Specifically her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric. The Joliot-Curies are possible answers to a number of Nobel Prize trivia questions– only mother and daughter to…

There’s no way I could possibly go through a long history-of-science blog series without mentioning the great Marie Skłodowska Curie, one of the very few people in history to win not one but two Nobel Prizes for her scientific work– if nothing else, Polish pride would demand it. She made a monumental contribution to physics…

“You wanted to see me, Herr Professor?” “Hans! Yes, come in, come in. Just going over the account books. Frightful amount of money going out of this place.” “Well, radium is expensive…” “Ha! Oh, and speaking of which– here’s one of the sources. Absent-mindedly dropped the fool thing in my pocket last night when I…

Eureka: Waldo at the Galaxy Zoo

Over at Medium, they’ve published a long excerpt from Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist, that gives a good flavor of what the book’s really like. It’s about how the process for solving hidden-object games like the classic Where’s Waldo books is comparable to the process used by Henrietta Leavitt to revolutionize our understanding of the…

“…and take care that all the signatures go in the right way round, eh, James? I was able to soothe Mr. Dance last time, but if another copy comes back to be rebound, M. de la Roche will put you out.” “Yessir.” “A little more care, there’s a good lad. Run home, now, we’ll see…

Scientific controversies aren’t always settled by a single dramatic experiment, but it’s a lot of fun when they are. It’s even more fun when they can be carried out with, as the author put it, “without any other apparatus than is at hand to every one.” I’m speaking in this case of the famous “double…