Friday 31 August 2018

Werner's nomenclature of colours : with additions, arranged so as to render it highly useful to the arts and sciences, particularly zoology, botany, chemistry, mineralogy, and morbid anatomy (1821)

This wonderful volume, Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, was first published in 1814. It is a taxonomic guide to the colours of the natural world based on the mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner's standardised colour scheme,  adapted and illustrated by the Scottish painter Patrick Syme.

The volume (HERE) has just been re-published in a facsimile. 

Thursday 23 August 2018

Maps of the Earth (1901)

From the excellent site of The History of Chinese Science and Culture Foundation, (HERE) is a series of images from a late Qing dynasty Atlas - MAPS OF THE EARTH by Wu Run-De, Ding Wei Year. Above is a map of Jiangsu province. 

Sunday 19 August 2018

Time for science to be about truth rather than careers (2013)

Oh Dear. 

I have been a scientist of sorts for thirty years. I believe that the American engineer Henry Petroski had it right when he said: Science is about understanding the origins, nature, and behaviour of the universe and all it contains. This of course is a quest for truth - for a deep understanding of objectively what is what. But the prosaic reality is that the basis of this grand endeavour is nothing more than a scrupulous attention to detail and keeping oneself honest - what non-fiction writers call fact-checking.  

As this superb editorial by Richard Smith in the British Medical Journal - describing a talk by John Ioanaddis - points out, the empirical evidence is that "science" in many fields of bio-medical research is not about truth:  

Why, asked Ioannidis, at the end of his talk are we doing science? Contentment with a system that encourages the publication of studies that are mostly misleading suggests that it’s about careers, grants, publications, and salaries. If it’s about a search for “truth” then we need more collaboration, less publishing of small and biased studies, and a heavy emphasis on reproducibility.

Monday 13 August 2018

Eliminative Induction (2012)

From a textbook by Arial Caticha, Entropic Inference and the Foundations of Physics (HERE).

The framework for inference will be constructed by a process of eliminative induction. The objective is to design the appropriate tools, which in our case, means designing the theory of probability and entropy. The different ways in which probabilities and entropies are defined and handled will lead to different inference schemes and one can imagine a vast variety of possibilities. To select one we must first have a clear idea of the function that those tools are supposed to perform, that is, we must specify design criteria or design specifications that the desired inference framework must obey. Finally, in the eliminative part of the process one proceeds to systematically rule out all those inference schemes that fail to comply with the design criteria — that is, that fail to perform as

There is no implication that an inference framework designed in this way is in any way “true”, or that it succeeds because it achieves some special intimate agreement with reality. Instead, the claim is pragmatic: the method succeeds to the extent that the inference framework works as designed and its performance will be deemed satisfactory as long as it leads to scientific models that are empirically adequate. Whatever design criteria are chosen, they are meant to be only provisional — just like everything else in science, there is no reason to consider them immune from further change and improvement.

The pros and cons of eliminative induction have been the subject of considerable philosophical research. On the negative side, eliminative induction, like any other form of induction, is not guaranteed to work. On the positive side, eliminative induction adds an interesting twist to Popper’s scientific methodology. According to Popper scientific theories can never be proved right, they can only be proved false; a theory is corroborated only to the extent that all attempts at falsifying it have failed. Eliminative induction is fully compatible with Popper’s notions but the point of view is just the opposite. Instead of focusing on failure to falsify one focuses on success: it is the successful falsification of all rival theories that corroborates the surviving one. The advantage is that one acquires a more explicit understanding of why competing theories are eliminated.

Monday 6 August 2018

Les Poissons (1876)

A Crucian carp (Carassius carassius) from Les Poissons : synonymie - description - mœurs - frai - pêche -iconographie, des espèces composant plus particulièrement la faune française

By H. Gervais, and R. Boulart. 

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Keswick Codlin (1876)

A Keswick Codlin, from The Herefordshire pomona, containing coloured figures and descriptions of the most esteemed kinds of apples and pears.

Bull, Edith G. 
Bull, Henry Graves, 1828--188 
Ellis, Alice B. 
Hogg, Robert, 1818-1897 
Jakeman and Carver. 

Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. 


Coloured figures of English fungi or mushrooms (1797)

Coloured figures of English fungi or mushrooms. 
James Sowerby (1757-1822)

Publication info London,Printed by J. Davis,1797-[1809]
BHL Collections:
New York Botanical Garden