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Royal Society Releases Historic Science Papers 83

Posted by kdawson
from the bayes-essay-on-chance-ftw dept.
krou writes "To celebrate its 350th anniversary, the Royal Society has released a number of historic science papers and made them available online via its Trailblazing website. Among the papers are Benjamin Franklin's notes on his kite-flying experiment, a paper on black holes co-written by Professor Stephen Hawking, manuscripts from Sir Isaac Newton showing 'that white light is a mixture of other colours,' and a few other interesting details such as 'a gruesome account of a 17th century blood transfusion.'"
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Royal Society Releases Historic Science Papers

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  • by celle (906675)

    "a gruesome account of a 17th century blood transfusion."

    Bring on the twilighters!!!

  • ...Neal Stephenson a trip. Does the site contain any papers about the benefits of drinking mercury?
    • by bughunter (10093) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:24PM (#30277580) Journal

      Yeah, this is fascinating stuff, especially as I'm reading Quicksilver [wikipedia.org] right now, in which are depicted "plausible recreations" of some early Society experiments in optics, chemistry, physics, and physiology, including a rather gruesome account of the live dissection of a dog.

      Stephenson also breathes some life and character into historical figures associated with the Royal Society, not the least of whom are Newton and Leibniz. Worth a read if you have any interest in the history of science.

      • by ksemlerK (610016) <kurtsemlerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:51PM (#30277830) Homepage

        including a rather gruesome account of the live dissection of a dog.

        A live dissection is also known as a vivisection. It is derived from the Latin term meaning, to cut life: “Vivis” (life) and “Sectus” (to cut).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Petrushka (815171)

          A live dissection is also known as a vivisection. It is derived from the Latin term meaning, to cut life: “Vivis” (life) and “Sectus” (to cut).

          <pedant>
          vivus "alive" => vivi-
          seco "to cut" => sectio(n)-
          </pedant>

          (The words you give aren't exactly incorrect, they're just a weird choice of forms)

          • (The words you give aren't exactly incorrect, they're just a weird choice of forms)

            For the benefit of those of us who haven't studied latin but are interested in languages, what are the forms you've given? What are the forms OP has given? If those answers don't make it readily apparent, why are OP's choices weird?

            • Latin adjectives are given in the nominative singular case with the endings for masculine and nonmasculine forms, unless such forms are the same, in which case genitive singular case is used. Vivus -a -um is a 1st/2nd declension (not sure, they're the same) adjective. Thus ksemlerK's use would be either dative or ablative. (giving life, having life or from life, roughly) Verbs have their present active infinitive (or passive, for deponent verbs) and any other endings needed to insure correct spelling indica
      • by aiht (1017790)

        Worth a read if you have any interest in the history of science.

        Seconded.
        Whenever I don't have any new books to read, I re-read bits of the Baroque Cycle - I'm reading The Confusion for something like the 5th time at the moment, and still loving every moment of it.

    • If your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

      If your only tool is a screwdriver, the answer to every problem is "screw it". Apologies to Maslow.

      FWIW, original is "To the man who only has a hammer in the toolkit, every problem looks like a nail." A. Maslow
  • See, I told you my client, Galileo, isn't guilty!
       

  • Links? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:09PM (#30277430)

    You know what's cool about the web? Pages can contain hyperlinks to other pages! For example, if you write a post saying that Benjamin Franklin's notes on his kite-flying experiment are available on the web [royalsocie...ishing.org], you can use these fancy "hyperlinks" to help people find the articles!

    Of course, it appears that the articles were already on the web, and the trailblazer website is just a very, very cool index of existing information. But, I think it's required that every slashdot summary contain at least one easily verified and incorrect fact, so that readers will be more engaged with the website and read more advertising.

    • Re:Links? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by haderytn (1232484) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:12PM (#30277482)
      What advertising?
    • by MagicM (85041)

      (...) Make a fmall crofs, of two light ftrips of cedar (...)

      Awesome! I never knew old Benjamin had a lisp!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        (...) Make a fmall crofs, of two light ftrips of cedar (...)

        Awesome! I never knew old Benjamin had a lisp!

        Grrrrr (rips open reference with sharp-filed cursor)

        That's an early form of the letter "s", the "long S" from Carolingian Minuscule. You'll notice it has no crossbar, as does the letter "f". The "s" we know was often used at the end of words as a bit of shorthand, similar to the cursive un-crossed T.

        The quote should read "Make a small cross, of two light strips of cedar".

        Don't argue, you expected t

  • by NoYob (1630681) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:34PM (#30277674)
    I was going through the timeline and at 1830 it shows a big white dot with a pop-up "Spanish Inquisition Ends".

    I never saw that coming.

  • by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:35PM (#30277684) Homepage Journal

    This is really cool stuff, and I find it very interesting to scroll the timeline on Trailblazing to get an idea of the historical context of these papers. I just wish there were more than 60 of them and covering more fields. Still, I'm looking forward to reading Watson and Crick's paper, Gould and Lewontin's paper, and perhaps even Maxwell's paper if I can handle it.

    I'm a really big fan of the Royal Society. They have so much high quality research available under Open Access, including any papers in Philosophical Transactions B (which I tend to get stuff from the most as my interests are more related to Biology) that are more than a year old. I'm looking forward to their 350th Anniversary Issue [royalsocie...ishing.org] which comes out in 2 weeks under Open Access. It's looking to have some interesting articles. In fact, all of the things they are doing for their 350th anniversary are really cool. Check them out: http://royalsocietypublishing.org/site/authors/2010.xhtml [royalsocie...ishing.org]

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yea great guys. Too bad they have made aggressive legal threats of copyright enforcement against anyone else who distributes other similarly old papers. There are about 40,000 papers in the Philosophical transactions which are old enough to be unconditionally public domain— yet you can't obtain them, at least not without paying a couple bucks a pop to the royal society.

  • F v. S ? (Score:4, Funny)

    by eepok (545733) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:38PM (#30277708) Homepage
    Great, now I have to find out why, in the Benjamin Franklin text, all but the last S's in any word look like lower-case Fs.
  • "...a few other interesting details such as 'a gruesome account of a 17th century blood transfusion."

    Great, that's what the internet needs. More "Twilight" slashfic...

  • "... our ignorance of the Earth system is overwhelming and intensified by the tendency to favour model simulations over experiments, observation and measurement."

    "We could find ourselves enslaved in a Kafka-like world from which there is no escape."

    Could?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And how many had the journals they were published in recategorized when they dared to question the received dogma of the day?

  • 2009: Physics/Mathematics: On the slashdotting of the Royal Society ;-)

    But seriously, this is fantastic to see! Amazing what's freely available if you have the time and inclination to learn (and the brains to filter out all the quakery!).

    • by aiht (1017790)

      (and the brains to filter out all the quakery!).

      Oooh, those Quakers! *shakes fist*

      wait...
      ... I suspect you meant quackery, yes?

  • Why the hell weren't these publicly available to begin with? I see the article says "put online"; what does that mean? Were they available, just limited to microfilm or something like that? I hope they were freely available before.
  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Monday November 30, 2009 @09:44PM (#30278234) Journal
    Discuss how consensus rules Science, and how to properly dispose of raw data?
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Monday November 30, 2009 @09:48PM (#30278262) Homepage

    The Royal Society really does typify the content led questioning society that the world used to be. By establishing a body (The Royal Society) with the express intention of enabling that form of dicussion it represented very much a broad view that facts were what moved society forward rather than opinions.

    How far we have fallen from 200 years ago into a world where opinion matters more than facts and where its routine for big companies in particular to hide data that doesn't match the outcome that they want.

    The current pieces around Climate Change are a great example as to how far we have fallen, people with zero background, training or experience in a field are claiming that their opinions are just as valid as someone who are studied a field for 20 years.

    We have people questioning doctors and demanding antibiotics
    We have people believing rubbish like homeopathy because their "opinion" is it works
    We have presidents believing that FAITH in something (WMDs) is more important that actual facts
    We have people questioning evolution because their FAITH says it isn't so

    Hopefully in 100 years our great-grand-children will look back on this as the biggest era of deliberate human stupidy. Its not often the past is actually better but the basis of the Royal Society and indeed the society which it represented 200 years ago is a much more rational and measured one than the FoxNews driven debates of today.

    I often think that Fox News would be firmly on the "gravity denier" side if it had been around at the time of Newton.

    • We have people believing rubbish like homeopathy because their "opinion" is it works

      The placebo effect is a real thing, and it works better if the placebo is expensive.

      We have presidents believing that FAITH in something (WMDs) is more important that actual facts

      He was flat out lying [wikipedia.org].

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MosesJones (55544)

        The placebo effect is a real thing, and it works better if the placebo is expensive.

        It is indeed real but that doesn't make homeopathy real. I have no problems with the placebo effect or even people who deliberately sell a placebo wrapped in mumbo jumbo what I have is a problem with people selling a placebo who don't have the intellectual honesty to admit its just a placebo.

        The placebo works, homeopathy doesn't.

        • The placebo effect is a real thing, and it works better if the placebo is expensive.

          It is indeed real but that doesn't make homeopathy real. I have no problems with the placebo effect or even people who deliberately sell a placebo wrapped in mumbo jumbo what I have is a problem with people selling a placebo who don't have the intellectual honesty to admit its just a placebo.

          The placebo works, homeopathy doesn't.

          But the placebo only works if you believe it's a real cure. If you say "this is a placebo", then it won't.

          I understand why you're pissed at them for conning the gullible, but I'm just saying, you have to understand that the clients who are convinced that it works are actually feeling better by taking the placebo, so don't be mad at them for feeling better and saying so.

          • ...you have to understand that the clients who are convinced that it works are actually feeling better by taking the placebo...

            But was it worth it?

            They got the benefit of pain releif but only at the cost of being a potential intelectual burden on society. If people like that mind their own business they can believe what they want but if they start using their uninformed opinions to make the world worse for the rest of us then I say it's better to educate rather than let them just believe.

      • The placebo effect works when there is no real ailment. The placebo effect cannot cure cancer, but it may cure restless leg syndrome.
    • It has never been any different. The vast majority of the unwashed masses are stupid and superstitious. It is still true. Sad, really.
      • by MosesJones (55544)

        I'm not sure this is true. In the early Victorian period in particular the drive for rationalism and empirical information was everywhere. The heros of the age were scientists, explorers and engineers.

        In Newton's time there was more mumbo jumbo but do remember that they changed the laws of the country to allow him to take up his chair at Cambridge, this led (in part) to the explosion of non-comformist religions in the UK.

        Benjamin Franklin was a hero in the US in the early victorian era (IIRTTC) and is a g

        • It was not uncommon in earlier days for "scientists" to publish the results that their political rulers wanted to hear. The only difference is that today the political rulers have billions of taxpayer dollars to hand out to "scientists" who can produce studies supporting the political correct party line.

          I'm surprised that more slash/dotters are not more skeptical of the politically popular line.
        • by chihowa (366380)

          In the early Victorian period in particular the drive for rationalism and empirical information was everywhere. The heros of the age were scientists, explorers and engineers.

          Don't be so sure of this. Your view of those times is based on the writings of the intelligentsia, who may have held the scientists as heroes. The unwashed masses were just as ignorant and superstitious as before (and now).

    • by panthroman (1415081) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @01:38AM (#30279760) Homepage

      ...how far we have fallen, people with zero background, training or experience in a field are claiming that their opinions are just as valid as someone who are studied a field for 20 years.

      Um... questioning authority is kinda the hallmark of science. I understand what you're saying - science is underappreciated - but empowering people to seek the truth for themselves is what science is!

      The 16th century's Glorious Revolution was society saying "How come we have to believe Galen? I'm [wikipedia.org] gonna dissect some humans myself and see what's inside." We didn't need authority to be our conduit to truth: we could seek truth directly. (At the same time, people were rebelling against needing the Pope as a conduit to God, and voila, Protestantism.)

      • by chebucto (992517) *

        What I think the GP was getting and (and I agree with this) is that it is not uncommon for people to assert that their baseless opinion or feeling on is just as valid as a professional's fact- and reason- based conclusions.

        No one would suggest that people should be stopped from questioning authority or science, but they should question it based on reason and fact, not opinion and feeling. More generally, it seems like the right to hold one's own opinion has mutated into the right to have other people respec

        • by sorak (246725)

          I would add one thing to that. Learn about the situation, before you assert your superior understanding of it.

      • Um... questioning authority is kinda the hallmark of science.

        I understand what you're saying, but...

        Well, challenging authority with evidence is the hallmark of science. In the past, the authority (i.e. power) was typically part of a religious institution. These days (this is how I interpret your parent post) people use opinion to challenge the authority of the scientific process (as distinct from the authority of individual scientists).

        I think well-practised science has authority (over factual matters). Religion does not. But well-practised science challenges it

    • by u38cg (607297)
      There never was a golden age of rational enquiry. The thread started by Montaigne was always a thin one; there were no shortage of charlatans and fools two hundred years ago either.
  • Some choice papers (Score:3, Informative)

    by nneonneo (911150) <spam_hole&shaw,ca> on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @02:10AM (#30279918) Homepage

    I've looked over this archive (before Slashdot posted it), and I found several articles which were very interesting to me.

    Leeuwenhoek's description [doi.org] of the "little animals" he saw with his early microscope (1677) -- this one is quite long and many entries are repetitive, but it is a detailed account of Leeuwenhoek's regular experiments and observations with microscopic life forms.

    Surviving in a room heated to 260 degrees Fahrenheit [doi.org] (1775) -- this paper strikes me as absolutely incredulous in its claims; I did not know that people could survive such heat (I have not yet found any modern information supporting or disproving this claim, so information about this from a modern science perspective would be nice!).

    I have a large backlog of papers which I would like to read, but which I cannot right now due to time constraints. I certainly would like to read more of these if I had the time to do so.

    Bravo to the Royal Society for making these publicly accessible and easily explored. I now have an urge to read some of the early Philosophical Transaction papers not highlighted in Trailblazing.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Try this [ucla.edu] and this [google.co.uk] - the second one cites temperatures of 262F.
    • I did not know that people could survive such heat

      Bah. A decent sauna is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and is good for you. I've spend plenty of quarter-hours at this temperature. US sauna are all dialed pitifully low for insurance reasons.

      260F is just enough hotter than 200F that it wouldn't be pleasant anymore, but certainly not lethal in the short term. Drink enough fluids to replace the sweat and you'll be fine.

  • The notes on blood transfusion (year 1666) are basically a set of "tryals proposed", questions about whether traits will be inherited when transfusing blood between dogs of different temper, size and colour.

    As such they do make a very interesting and non-gruesome read. We have come a long way.

    I also found the article itself [royalsocie...ishing.org] to be remarkably readable in every aspect (language, spelling and fonts). I did not expect that at all, but then again I am not in the habit of reading 17th century English.

  • Its really just amazing how quickly we've come in those 350 Years, when the Royal Society was founded we had no theory of gravity, electricity, heat, air magnetism or engines. The most complex machines, we're clocks and windmills. It make you think how far and how quickly man kind has come.

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