Tag: history of science

Tambora’s Significance to Us and the Teaching of Science

Before Gillen Wood came to speak to us and before his book was introduced in the class, Weather, Climate, and Society. I had not known about Tambora and its significant impact on the world. I am very thankful to have been informed as I was introduced to something with as much significance as a genocide does in history. I am also grateful to have been introduced to Gillen’s way of teaching us about Tambora, he has written scientific history in connection to human affairs, a way he knew this information could reach many people. Thus, not only has Gillen helped to shine light on a world changing event, but also, a whole new way of engraining scientific history in all people, even those like me, who do not naturally gravitate to the sciences.

Tambora not only affected the people and climate in it’s immediate surroundings but all over the world due to its particles that spread when they dispersed into the stratosphere. The resulting climate shock caused sympathy and violence. As Wood informed us, Tambora caused communities to fall apart. In England, for example, there was a mentality of bread or blood. It was the1st demographic hit where agriculture could not be done. People had to go far to reach markets for food but some couldn’t even make it because of the condition they were in. The wholesale grain prices over the years shows the tragic shortage of food: (in the U.S). year 1815: 100, year 1816: 124, year 1817: 154, year 1818: 127, year 1819: 86, and year 1820: 59. In addition, to not see children suffer from starvation and other suffering mother’s would end the lives of their own children. According to Wood, in China, children were even sold and in Indonesia they were entered into slavery for the same reasons, because at least they would be fed. There is no question what a huge impact Tambora had on the world.

Thus, Wood had a big mission, to inform others about this historical moment that is more than science but also, a part of human’s history. He made this event significant and worthy to everyone with his book by showing us that Tambora has shaped who we are and our atmosphere in some way. This was particularly a new approach for me that I am very grateful for, I believe this is the way to reach people and make them care. Furthermore, through this mission he has also helped people think teleconnectedly. As Wood said, we miss a lot of our world unless we think this way. Everything is teleconnected, just look at what he has accomplished with connecting social systems and climate to Tambora. Wood has not only brought Tambora to our attention as a revolution, he has brought us a new approach that can get our world more involved with what is going in our atmosphere.

The revolution of the language of “science”

When we think about why humans have the power to influence the world in a global scale, one of the most important factors that we should not ignore is the science. For a long time, we had acquired knowledge, made tools, and built civilizations. None of them could be achieved without science. However, if we think about “science” as a word and a kind of languages, we will find that it is also revolutionary.

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Motion in Language or Language in Motion?

“The most revolutionary part of the Scientific Revolution was that we use a metaphor of a revolution to describe it.” That conclusion was very provocative to me. As products of their time and culture, and as aware and critic of themselves and their environment, the scientists during the Scientific Revolution started using the word revolution to explain their circumstances. “Revolution” was not only used as a metaphor to challenge the past and current standards and establish a new scientific outlook, it was also used as a cyclical historical term to describe a pattern.

During the Scientific Revolution, knowledge stopped being about enlightenment and faith and started being about experiments and testing. Although the theories were abstract and mathematical in nature, they were able to be tested physically with experiments. Everything could be put to the test in this process of discovering new principles through empirical methods and mathematical analysis. Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes created the foundations of thinking about our thinking about the world and established a new approach to methodological inquiry. This new paradigm echoed the rise of humanism during the Renaissance, which questioned religious authority and emphasized the capacity of individual human beings to understand the world. The Scientific Revolution relied heavily on a capacity for abstract thinking and a precise use of language in order to become such a powerful period in history.

According to Chalmers Brothers and Vinay Kumar, language is a tool we cannot stop using because we need it to use all other tools. Language does not only communicate and describe; by making distinctions, it creates, generates, and provides us access to conceptual breakthroughs. By acquiring distinctions and giving them a name, we discriminate between things we didn’t see as different before. New ways of seeing things allow us to do what we could not do before. In short, language and distinctions give us access to knowledge. Once you have the distinction, you have created the conceptual space for understanding and access breakthroughs. The thinkers of the Scientific Revolution realized they were living a turning point in modern science and culture, they were aware of the distinction, and named that distinction “revolution”. Even though the word could be used in different contexts (to roll back, to return, overturning, as an astronomical term…) and could take the form of different truths, it contributed to understanding and thinking about the world.

Centuries later, we continue to enhance and discover new meanings to the distinction made by the phrase “Scientific Revolution” using new analytical methods through data. We can now see we weren’t able to see before and distinguish deep structures and patterns in history. By reinterpreting the Scientific Revolution in terms of language we uncover a pattern of a continuing process of change as a critical part of history.