Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball

By Philip Ball

With the hot touchdown of the Mars rover interest, it kind of feels secure to imagine that the belief of being curious is alive and good in glossy science—that it’s now not in simple terms inspired yet is obvious as a vital part of the clinical challenge. but there has been a time while interest used to be condemned. Neither Pandora nor Eve may perhaps face up to the damaging attract of unanswered questions, and all wisdom wasn’t equal—for millennia it used to be believed that there have been a few issues we must always now not try and be aware of. within the overdue 16th century this angle started to switch dramatically, and in interest: How technological know-how took an interest in every little thing, Philip Ball investigates how interest first grew to become sanctioned—when it replaced from a vice to a advantage and the way it grew to become permissible to invite any and each query in regards to the world.

Looking heavily on the 16th via eighteenth centuries, Ball vividly brings to existence the age while sleek technological know-how begun, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. during this interesting and illuminating account of the increase of technological know-how as we all know it, Ball tells of scientists either mythical and lesser recognized, from Copernicus and Kepler to Robert Boyle, in addition to the innovations and applied sciences that have been encouraged by way of interest itself, equivalent to the telescope and the microscope. The so-called medical Revolution is frequently instructed as a narrative of serious geniuses illuminating the realm with flashes of idea. yet interest unearths a extra advanced tale, during which the liberation—and next taming—of interest used to be associated with magic, faith, literature, go back and forth, alternate, and empire. Ball additionally asks what has develop into of interest this day: the way it services in technology, the way it is spun and packaged for intake, how good it's being sustained, and the way the altering form of technological know-how affects the types of questions it could actually proceed to ask.

Though proverbial knowledge let us know that it used to be via interest that our innocence was once misplaced, that has now not deterred us. as a substitute, it's been thoroughly the opposite: at the present time we spend immense sums attempting to reconstruct the 1st instants of construction in particle accelerators, out of a natural wish to understand. Ball refuses to allow us to take this hope with no consideration, and this publication is an ideal homage to such an inquisitive angle.

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What is more, Leonardo’s belief in mathematical order and simplicity in nature did not necessarily impute simplicity to experience. In the Renaissance, ‘laws’ of nature did not have the binding character that they are awarded today. In the Aristotelian view formulated by Thomas Aquinas, a law describes what is normally the case. But nature, like an artisan, could make mistakes and aberrations: monsters, freaks, wondrous phenomena might occur, not just – as many believed – because they were divine portents, but also because nature had wrought in error or whimsy.

It was this implied criticism of the witchhunts that led the Inquisition to command Della Porta to account for himself in Rome. Della Porta’s book established experiment as the modus operandi of natural magic. He says that he personally tested claims found in older writings that seemed hard to credit, and ruled out ones that did not pass muster. Never mind that Albertus Magnus suggests that iron be hardened by tempering it in radish juice or ‘water of earthworms’ – it doesn’t work, Della Porta attested.

The Italian writer Pompeo Sarnelli, who edited Della Porta’s letters, says that these visitors ‘vied with one another to add new discoveries to his researches’. They were wealthy men, and like Ruscelli’s Accademia Segreta they paid artisans to help with the experiments. Natural magic set the agenda for the scientific programme of the seventeenth century in the sense that its objective was not, as is often said of science, to banish occult qualities and phenomena, but to accommodate them by explaining them rationally.

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