26 April 2007

Got the Book!

OK. I got the book today! Tried at the library, but they have only got 3 copies. All three were gone and there were 4 outstanding holds. No joy. Went to Barnes & Nobel. No problem. They had a nice big section of them, so I bought one. Gonna get started with it here pretty quick.

Also: I'm gonna start a "Books Under Consideration" section to our sidebar, where we cankeep a list of possible books to read. While I was at B&N, I saw one called 1421: the year China discovered the world. I guess the Chinese landed ib the americas quite a while before Columbus, that they circumnavigated the globe quite a while before Magellin. The book's got a website. Anyway, it looked really interesting, so I thought we might want to consider it for a future selection. I don't know if you guys can do things with the template, but if you can, jump right in & add anything that looks interesting to you & we'll decide later.

While I was ar B&N I picked up a thing on sparking discussion in your reading groups, so I think that in addition to the books under consideration, I'll probably add a section of questions to ask the book. Gonna have to get The Well Educated Mind from the library again & add some of the questions she suggested: she had some good ones. If you wanna add some, go right ahead. If the blog won't let you, leave them as comments & I'll get 'em on the list!

24 April 2007

That Other Book

Alright, I haven't actually gotten ahold of the book that we're supposed to be reading just yet, but apparently neither has anyone else. Not that that's a good excuse! :P However, I have been making slow progress through The Scientists, which is still a fascinating book. I've been putting some of the highlights into my Book of Centuries. I'm just starting the chapter called "The Newtonian Revolution" that starts with a guy named Hooke. Apparently Newton (the guy in the painting) didn't like Hooke very well. I wouldn't know: I'd never heard of the guy before when I was reading about him this afternoon. Sounds like these two & another guy were in serious - and not so friendly - competition with each other.

The three people who between them established both the scientific method itself and the pre-eminence of British science at the end of the seventeenth century were Robert Hooke, Edmond Halley and Isaac Newton. It is some measure of the towering achievements of the other two that Halley clearly ranks third out of the trio in terms of his direct contribution to science; but in spite of the Newton bandwagon that has now been rolling for 300 years (and was given its initial push by Newton himself after Hooke had died), it is impossible for the unbiased historian to say whether Newton or Hooke made the more significant contribution. Newton was a loner who worked in isolation and established the single, profound truth that the Universe works on mathematical principles; Hooke was a gregarious and wide-ranging scientist who came up with a dazzling variety of new ideas, but also did more than anyone else to turn the Royal Society from a gentleman's gossip shop into the archtypical scientific society. His misfortune was to incur the enmity of Newton, and to die before Newton, giving his old enemy a chance to rewrite history - which he did so effectively that Hooke has only really been rehabilitated in the past few decades.
-The Scientists, page 149

Anyway, as we get further into the book, the author is starting to insert his opinions a little more as he tells the story. It'll be interesting to see how this affects my enjoyment as we get into the Darwin stuff: I'm thinking he's going to treat evolution as Fact, rather than unproven Theory. (You can see my opinion on evolution here.)