lecture_January%2019 - 3/20/11 3/20/11 Two upcoming guest...

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3/20/11
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3/20/11 Two upcoming guest talks February 2: Edith Arbach, University of Ottawa library (on library research skills) March 16: Joseph Templin, Director of Science and Technology Air, Defence Research and Development Canada (on writing skills for engineers and scientists)
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3/20/11 Today’s class Specifications, descriptions, definitions, instructions —in other words, how does one describe physical reality accurately? Writing problems:
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3/20/11 Basic assumption of science Reality contains principles that can be understood and described by human beings using words and mathematics. Next: historical context for the development of scientific writing: scientific revolution (16th and 17th centuries)
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3/20/11 Ptolemy—geocentric cosmology
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3/20/11 Geocentric cosmology Accepted for 2,000 years . Combined with Aristotle’s ideas about celestial and terrestrial spheres. Corresponded to common sense and
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3/20/11 Discrepancies (telescope Moon not made of perfect crystal-like substance. Planets do not move in perfect circles around the earth.
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3/20/11 Dogmatic Response to discrepancies Geocentric model must be correct. Chart complex models to “explain” new observations. Hyper complication: a sign of error.
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3/20/11 Copernicus 16th-century polish astronomer. Introduced a true heliocentric model . Scientific revolution involved a debate about connection between words and
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3/20/11 Francis bacon “. . . words are symbols of notions. Therefore if the notions themselves (which is the root of the matter) are confused and over-hastily abstracted from the facts, there can be no firmness in the superstructure. Our only hope therefore lies in a true induction ” (48).
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3/20/11 Inductive empiricism General truths should be reached based on the examination of particular detail observed in nature, not by imposing dogmatic ideas on reality Examples of dogmatic Aristotelian ideas : women have fewer teeth than man; the
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3/20/11 Ideal of scientific writin g “To return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men delivered so many things , almost in an equal number of words .” Thomas Spratt, History of the Royal Society of London (1667)
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3/20/11 Spratt on “noise” “Of all the studies of men, nothing may be sooner obtained, then this vicious abundance of phrase, this trick of metaphors, this volubility [fluency] of tongue, which makes so great a noise in the world” (1081).
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3/20/11 The challenge of every writer To understand reality accurately (not dogmatically) To describe it accurately in order to communicate this understanding
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3/20/11 specifications “Descriptions of products or product requirements” “Accuracy, precision of detail, and clarity are critical.”
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imagine That the builders of the Parthenon (temple of Athena in ancient Greece) had to write specifications . . . “Use
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lecture_January%2019 - 3/20/11 3/20/11 Two upcoming guest...

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