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Science in Context

María de Paz
ArgumentThis paper aims at understanding the concept of convention in mechanics as a notion transferred from the field of jurisprudence. This enables us to clarify it as a new epistemic category having a pertinent role in the transformation of mechanics in the nineteenth century. Such understanding permits a separation from linguistic and arbitrary conventions, thus highlighting its epistemic features and not transforming fundamental principles into mere arbitrary agreements. After addressing the main references in the literature discussing the role of convention in mechanics, we analyze its classical use as a concept originating from law...
June 2018: Science in Context
André Goddu
ArgumentLudwik Antoni Birkenmajer (1855-1929), following along the paths pioneered by Leopold Prowe, Maximilian Curtze, Franz Hipler, and J. L. E. Dreyer, joined them as trailblazers of Copernican scholarship in the nineteenth century. Educated in the classics and mathematics, Birkenmajer began by examining more closely the Cracow background to Copernicus's development and studying his works and annotations in books he owned or read. Birkenmajer contributed many discoveries that eventually became common knowledge, and his studies loomed over Polish research on Copernicus into the 1970s...
June 2018: Science in Context
Yulia Frumer
ArgumentAn unusual compass, on which east and west are reversed, provides insight into the dynamics guiding our understanding of artifacts. By examining how such compasses were used in Tokugawa Japan (1600-1868), the benefits they brought, and how users knew how to read them, this article uncovers the cognitive factors that shape our interaction with technology. Building on the methodological approach of the distributed cognition theory, the article claims that reverse compasses allowed the user to conserve cognitive effort, which was particularly advantageous to Tokugawa-period mariners...
June 2018: Science in Context
Fernando Vidal
Argument "Deficit model" designates an outlook on the public understanding and communication of science that emphasizes scientific illiteracy and the need to educate the public. Though criticized, it is still widespread, especially among scientists. Its persistence is due not only to factors ranging from scientists' training to policy design, but also to the continuance of realism as an aesthetic criterion. This article examines the link between realism and the deficit model through discussions of neurology and psychiatry in fiction film, as well as through debates about historical movies and the cinematic adaptation of literature...
March 2018: Science in Context
Carlos Tabernero
Argument Franco's fascist regime in Spain (1939-1975) offers the possibility of exploring the complex relationship between media communication practices and the processes of production, circulation, and management of knowledge. The regime persistently used film, and later on television, as indoctrination and disciplining devices. These media thus served to shape the regime's representation, which largely relied on the generation of positive attitudes of adherence to the rulers through people's submission and obedience to experts...
March 2018: Science in Context
Kirsten Ostherr
Argument The deficit model of science communication assumes that the creation and dissemination of knowledge is limited to researchers with formal credentials. Recent challenges to this model have emerged among "e-patients" who develop extensive online activist communities, demand access to their own health data, conduct crowd-sourced experiments, and "hack" health problems that traditional medical experts have failed to solve. This article explores the aesthetics of medical media that enact the transition from a deficit model to a patient-driven model of visual representation and health communication...
March 2018: Science in Context
Felicity Mellor
Argument Among the many limitations of the deficit model of science communication is its inability to account for the qualities of communication products that arise from creative decisions about form and style. This paper examines two documentaries about the nature of time - Patricio Guzmán's Nostalgia for the Light and the first episode of the BBC's Wonders of the Universe series - in order to consider how film style inflects science with different meanings. The analysis pays particular attention to the ways in which authority is assigned between film author, narrator, and depicted subjects and the degree to which different film styles promote epistemological certainty or hesitancy...
March 2018: Science in Context
Eleanor Louson
Argument I argue through an analysis of spectacle that the relationship between wildlife documentary films' entertainment and educational mandates is complex and co-constitutive. Accuracy-based criticism of wildlife films reveals assumptions of a deficit model of science communication and positions spectacle as an external commercial pressure influencing the genre. Using the Planet Earth (2006) series as a case study, I describe spectacle's prominence within the recent blue-chip renaissance in wildlife film, resulting from technological innovations and twenty-first-century consumer and broadcast market contexts...
March 2018: Science in Context
David A Kirby
Argument As the deficit model's failure leaves scientists searching for more effective communicative approaches, science communication scholars have begun promoting narrative as a potent persuasive tool. Narratives can help the public make choices by setting out a scientific issue's contexts, establishing the stakes involved, and offering potential solutions. However, employing narrative for persuasion risks embracing the same top-down communication approach underlying deficit model thinking. This essay explores the parallels between movie censorship and the current use of narrative to influence public opinion by examining how the Hays Office and the Catholic Legion of Decency responded to science in movies...
March 2018: Science in Context
Fernando Vidal
Science in film, and usual equivalents such as science on film or science on screen, refer to the cinematographic representation, staging, and enactment of actors, information, and processes involved in any aspect or dimension of science and its history. Of course, boundaries are blurry, and films shot as research tools or documentation also display science on screen. Nonetheless, they generally count as scientific film, and science in and on film or screen tend to designate productions whose purpose is entertainment and education...
March 2018: Science in Context
Luca Guzzardi
Argument According to a long-standing interpretation which traces back to Max Jammer's Concepts of Force (1957), Ruggiero G. Boscovich would have developed a concept of force in the tradition of Leibniz's dynamics. In his variation on the theme, basic properties of matter such as solidity or impenetrability would be derived from an interplay of some "active" force of attraction and repulsion that any primary element of nature ("point of matter" in Boscovich's theory) would possess. In the present paper I discuss many flaws of this interpretation and argue for an alternative point of view, according to which the crucial aspect in the development of Boscovich's natural philosophy is his early definition of forces as "mathematical determinations" to have a certain state of motion...
December 2017: Science in Context
Tom Quick
Argument This paper arrives at a normative position regarding the relevance of Henri Bergson's philosophy to historical enquiry. It does so via experimental historical analysis of the adaptation of cinematographic devices to physiological investigation. Bergson's philosophy accorded well with a mode of physiological psychology in which claims relating to mental and physiological existence interacted. Notably however, cinematograph-centered experimentation by British physiologists including Charles Scott Sherrington, as well as German-trained psychologists such as Hugo Münsterberg and Max Wertheimer, contributed to a cordoning-off of psychological from physiological questioning during the early twentieth century...
December 2017: Science in Context
Joseph D Martin
Argument Why do similar scientific enterprises garner unequal public approbation? High energy physics attracted considerable attention in the late-twentieth-century United States, whereas condensed matter physics - which occupied the greater proportion of US physicists - remained little known to the public, despite its relevance to ubiquitous consumer technologies. This paper supplements existing accounts of this much remarked-upon prestige asymmetry by showing that popular emphasis on the mundane technological offshoots of condensed matter physics and its focus on human-scale phenomena have rendered it more recondite than its better-known sibling field...
December 2017: Science in Context
Marta Hanson
Argument This article analyzes for the first time the earliest western maps of diseases in China spanning fifty years from the late 1870s to the end of the 1920s. The 24 featured disease maps present a visual history of the major transformations in modern medicine from medical geography to laboratory medicine wrought on Chinese soil. These medical transformations occurred within new political formations from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) to colonialism in East Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Manchuria, Korea) and hypercolonialism within China (Tianjin, Shanghai, Amoy) as well as the new Republican Chinese nation state (1912-49)...
September 2017: Science in Context
Joan Judge
Argument This article argues that in order to discern the place of science in the epistemology of Chinese common readers, it is critical to look beyond the coastal enclaves where foreign missionaries and experts interacted with Chinese scholars and officials, beyond the translated treatises they produced, and even beyond the various forms of new media that attempted to more widely disseminate the principles of Western science. Instead, it asserts the need to engage a different register of materials that were less directly tied to foreign expertise, more directly in line with pre-existing lineages of printed materials, and at the same time, integral to early-twentieth-century Chinese circuits of information...
September 2017: Science in Context
Ori Sela
The funeral procession of Sheng Xuanhuai (, 1844-1916) - the renowned Qing scholar-official, financier, and "father of Chinese industrialism" - meandered through the streets of Shanghai on 18 November 1917. The funeral was a grand event, one that was purportedly documented in film, later to be distributed as the first "news short-film" () in China. The North China Herald reported on the event in some detail, at times in rather florid language, and suggested that "the cortege was splendid and impressive, bringing back the days of the Manchu emperors...
September 2017: Science in Context
Ori Sela
Argument In recent decades a large body of scholarship on the first half of twentieth-century China has successfully shown the ways in which history and historiography had been constructed at the time, as well as the links between history, national identity, education, and politics that was forged during this period. In this paper, I examine Qing intellectual history, in particular that of the mid or "High Qing." I discuss the development of the historiography of this field in the early twentieth century by drawing on the larger developments in historiography; by demonstrating how these developments had shaped Qing intellectual history for later times; by focusing on the historical actors' sense of the importance of "science," being "scientific," and "modernization"; and, by unraveling the intimate connections to older historiographical narratives going back all the way to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries...
September 2017: Science in Context
Cynthia Brokaw
Argument Scholars of modern Chinese publishing and book culture focus on the dramatic transformations that took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the new technologies that enabled "mass" printing and the development of "modern" genres of print. They often neglect the fact that xylography remained a working technology through much of the Republican period and even into the People's Republic of China. Here I examine the continued use of woodblock printing and the continuing popularity of "traditional" textual genres from two perspectives...
September 2017: Science in Context
Eshbal Ratzon
Argument The Astronomical Book of Enoch describes the passage of the moon through the gates of heaven, which stand at the edges of the earth. In doing so, the book describes the position of the rising and setting of the moon on the horizon. Otto Neugebauer, the historian of ancient science, suggested using the detailed tables found in later Ethiopic texts in order to reconstruct the path of the moon through the gates. This paper offers a new examination of earlier versions of the Astronomical Book, using a mathematical analysis of the figures and astronomical theories presented throughout the Aramaic Astronomical Book; the results fit both the data preserved in the scrolls and the mathematical approach and religious ideology of the scroll's authors better than the details found in the late Ethiopic texts...
June 2017: Science in Context
Simon Schaffer
Argument Metrological techniques to establish shared quantitative measures have often been seen as signs of rational modernization. The cases considered here show instead the close relation of such techniques with antiquarian and revivalist programs under imperial regimes. Enterprises in survey sciences in Egypt in the wake of the French invasion of 1798 and in India during the East India Company's revenue surveys involved the promotion of a new kind of oriental metrology designed to represent colonizers' measures as restorations of ancient values to be applied to current systems of survey and measurement...
June 2017: Science in Context
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