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We explain science, both the idealised version to which scientists aspire, and the real version that involves actual human beings. If you are a cosmic revolutionary, who wants to replace the prevailing big bang theory with their own ideas, we explain the importance of mathematical models, publishing, peer review and presentation of your ideas. In particular, we show how to make scientist's human motivations work in your favour.
The universe is smooth on the largest scales, with roughly the same number of galaxies in every large cosmic neighbourhood. But the standard history of the universe won't allow any process to smooth out an initially smooth universe. An addition to the standard model, called cosmic inflation, aims to fill this void.
The universe has a remarkably consistent elemental composition: about 75% hydrogen, 24% helium, and 1% heavier elements. Stars, for all their element-producing abilities, cannot have created these abundances. This points to another cosmic oven, in the universe’s hotter past.
Various alternatives to the big bang model have been proposed, both inside and outside the scientific literature. We review some examples, and show how they deal (or not) with the evidence of astronomy.
This chapter provides definitions of contrasting classical and medieval approaches to meteorology. It outlines the relevant works of Aristotle, as well as the means by which selections from these were transferred to Roman writers. The roles of Pliny and Virgil are considered, together with their own reception by early medieval writers. A key point is that patristic writers, especially Augustine, integrated this knowledge of the natural world into Christian teachings on cosmology. However, Aristotle’s arguments on meteorology were primarily transmitted to Latin Europe in Islamicate versions, and came accompanied by new information on astronomy. The chapter then offers an account of the transition from classical, theoretical models of climate to more detailed calculation of planetary movements and their alleged meteorological effects. An important argument is that early medieval scientific work is often presented in diagrams and tables, themselves found in monastic works on the ecclesiastical year, and are easy to miss or underestimate.
This chapter begins with an account of the roles of Charlemagne and Alcuin in supporting the study of computus and astronomy in the Carolingian Empire. It then offers an outline of the expanded astronomical and meteorological information found in Carolingian ‘encyclopedias’ of computus. A key problem for users of these collections was the lack of accurate astronomical observations and calculations, which enforced continuing dependence on lists of short-term ‘signs’ of coming weather, mostly derived from Pliny. One attempt to improve the range of knowledge available took the form of beautifully illuminated versions of Aratus’ long poem, in volumes known as Aratea. The dissemination of this body of information is traced through analyses of surviving manuscripts, which demonstrate the resources being devoted to the subject across mainland Europe. Separate consideration is given to Anglo-Saxon England, where Viking conquests and wars had caused serious disruption, and where the teaching of Abbo of Fleury, and his pupil Byrhtferth, was crucial. The chapter argues that possession of superior astronomical and meteorological knowledge was highly vaued by rulers in both secular and spiritual spheres.
A new era in radio astronomy will begin with the upcoming large-scale surveys planned at the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). ASKAP started its Early Science programme in October 2017 and several target fields were observed during the array commissioning phase. The Scorpio field was the first observed in the Galactic Plane in Band 1 (792–1 032 MHz) using 15 commissioned antennas. The achieved sensitivity and large field of view already allow to discover new sources and survey thousands of existing ones with improved precision with respect to previous surveys. Data analysis is currently ongoing to deliver the first source catalogue. Given the increased scale of the data, source extraction and characterisation, even in this Early Science phase, have to be carried out in a mostly automated way. This process presents significant challenges due to the presence of extended objects and diffuse emission close to the Galactic Plane.
In this context, we have extended and optimised a novel source finding tool, named Caesar, to allow extraction of both compact and extended sources from radio maps. A number of developments have been done driven by the analysis of the Scorpio map and in view of the future ASKAP Galactic Plane survey. The main goals are the improvement of algorithm performances and scalability as well as of software maintainability and usability within the radio community. In this paper, we present the current status of Caesar and report a first systematic characterisation of its performance for both compact and extended sources using simulated maps. Future prospects are discussed in the light of the obtained results.
This chapter interrogates one of the Museum’s prize objects, a late medieval English astrolabe, one of the earliest survivals of this type. Close analysis of the instrument’s specific design characteristics and engraved information is linked to recent scholarship on medieval astrolabe manufacture. Particular attention is paid to the often-overlooked back of the instrument, in particular its detailed calendar of Christian feast days, as a means of investigating the links between Christianity and scientific investigation, and between patrons, monasteries, and the universities in the medieval period.
Telling the time in medieval England was not always straightforward. A variety of timekeeping devices were in use, and a study of the astronomical and timekeeping instruments that survive from this period shows that many were portable and could have been carried around to tell the time. But were they? Or, were they made and used for other purposes? These questions run through much of the scholarship on these kinds of instruments. Examples of these instruments survive in museum collections, but it is difficult to determine how they were used, and for what purpose. This chapter is the result of that reconsideration of fundamental questions about the uses and users of astronomical instruments in medieval England. I argue that we should look again at the practical uses of some types of instruments, and consider whether some were carried around to tell the time, to be used for practical purposes alongside symbolic, teaching, and other functions. Instruments could be “ideas made brass” but they could also be of practical use, and I suggest that it was precisely this combination that may have made some instruments more important, or more common, in the period.
How special (or not) is the epoch we are living in? What is the appropriate reference class for embedding the observations made at the present time? How probable – or else – is anything we observe in the fulness of time? Contemporary cosmology and astrobiology bring those seemingly old-fashioned philosophical issues back into focus. There are several examples of contemporary research which use the assumption of typicality in time (or temporal Copernicanism) explicitly or implicitly, while not truly elaborating upon the meaning of this assumption. The present paper brings attention to the underlying and often uncritically accepted assumptions in these cases. It also aims to defend a more radical position that typicality in time is not – and cannot ever be – well-defined, in contrast to the typicality in space, and the typicality in various specific parameter spaces. This, of course, does not mean that we are atypical in time; instead, the notion of typicality in time is necessarily somewhat vague and restricted. In principle, it could be strengthened by further defining the relevant context, e.g. by referring to typicality within the Solar lifetime, or some similar restricting clause.
Chaucer lived in a society that was aware of childhood and adolescence as distinctive stages of human life and which inherited practices whereby young people were brought up and trained for adulthood. Informally, at home, children were introduced to social norms, religion and work. Those from wealthier families underwent more formal education, mastering literacy at home, in schools or in great households, where they learnt reading, rules of courtesy, French and, in the case of some boys, Latin. Chaucer’s works refer in passing to most of these processes, with particular attention to adolescents, including university scholars. During the fifteenth century his works in general came to be seen as having educational value. The Astrolabe, first written for his son Lewis, seems to have been used for teaching reading to other young children while his major writings were recommended as suitable literature for older ones.
Chaucer’s universe was an interconnected system, in which all things had their divinely ordered place. This chapter explores the sources and status of natural knowledge in the later Middle Ages, and Chaucer’s employment of that knowledge for poetic and didactic purposes. It explains how medieval philosophers used their inheritance of classical and Islamic knowledge, refining an understanding of a harmonious cosmos through the sciences of astronomy, cosmology, music and medicine. These were not just theoretical sciences, but practical arts. Chaucer understood, and explained, the astrological workings of tables and instruments and their predictive power for meteorology and medicine. He never let technicalities overwhelm poetry, but it is clear that the sciences were of great interest to Chaucer. They were worthy of serious study both for their practical potential and their philosophical or ethical implications, and a field in which, through his Treatise on the Astrolabe, Chaucer made his own unique contribution.
This chapter looks at Greek and Roman approaches to climate and weather, showing how geographers, astronomers, and physicians organised and understood geographical differences, and the consequences of those differences for agriculture, navigation, and even human physiology and disease. In some sources, very broad generalisations were made based on latitude alone, and in others variation was handled on a much more local basis. Long-term prediction of local weather was seen as an important task and utilised methods from astronomy, astrology, and folklore alike.
Over the past decade, anthropogenic climate change has encouraged authors and readers to confront new modes of imagining time, selfhood, and narrative and to reassess the relationships among experiential, historical, and climatological time. In Western literary culture, historical and climatological time traditionally have seemed one and the same. Working within the 5000-year time frame of biblical history, writers envisioned a world that, since the sixth day of creation, always has been inhabited and therefore always had been shaped and reshaped by humans. In this worldview, ‘nature’ is always a product of anthropogenic intervention. Beginning around 1800, however, work in geology, planetary astronomy, and palaeontology transformed conceptions of climate by decoupling planetary history from human experience, memory, and myth. In giving narrative form to the collision of experiential and climatological time, Anthropocene fiction explores the problem that science fiction often seems more ‘realistic’ than traditional narrative realism.