Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Science

Bonus: “Maunder Minimum”, Cartography, and Hevelius

Earlier this evening, I blogged about Cartography and the Moon, 1647 and Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687). While doing the research, I came across this image of Hevelius’ earliest drawing of sunspots. Since it wasn’t “Moon” related, my son, Jason ( check out his blog, “Jason’s Blog- Work in Progress”), said I should post it as a bonus feature. So, here it is!

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AN EARLY DRAWING of the Sun and sunspots by Johannes Hevelius. Here Hevelius shows the path and changes in sunspots that crossed the disk of the Sun between May 22 and May 31 in 1643 as they were seen in Danzig. – NASA

So, what is the “Maunder Minimum“? ” The number of sunspots observed on the solar surface varies fairly regularly, with an average period of 11-years. However, if we look at the variation of the sunspot number with time, we find that for a period of about 70 years, from A.D. 1645 to 1715, practically no sunspots have been observed. In other words, during this time the solar cycle has been interrupted. This period of time is called the Maunder Minimum.[1]

Did You Know?

In 1679 the English astronomer Edmond Halley visited Hevelius and compared the use of a sextant having telescopic sights with Hevelius’ sextant with open sights. Hevelius showed that he could determine stellar positions about as accurately without a telescope as Halley could with one.

[1] https://www.cora.nwra.com/~werne/eos/text/maunder.html

 

Editor’s Note: Featured image The Photosphere and Sun-spots is by S.P. Lngley | The Photosphere and Sun-spots | Popular Science Monthly, vol. 5 (September 1874)

Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Science

Cartography and the Moon, 1647

This Old Map…

In 1647, Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius published the Selenographia sive Lunae Descriptio (Selenography or the description of the moon). [Ed Note: Selenography is named after the Greek moon goddess Selene[1].]

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Johannes Hevelius – via Encyclopedia Brittanica

Historian of astronomy Albert Van Helden explains:

In Selenographia he presented engravings of every conceivable phase of the Moon as well as three large plates of the full Moon: one of the ways the full Moon actually appeared through the telescope, one the way a maker of terrestrial maps might represent it (using the conventions of geographers), and one a composite map of all lunar features illuminated (impossibly) from the same side.[2]

 

MPC1-vintage-map-moon

Hevelius’ lunar map  influences astronomy, cartography, and navigation to this day by introducing us to longitudinal lines, necessary during the Age of Discovery when navigators had to figure out the difference between their local time and a distant reference point (the moon). They needed “a composite view that pictured the Moon in a way it never appeared in reality but was accurate in its placement of individual features,” Van Helden writes.[3]

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Selenographia. Observations of the Moon.

Did you know?

A large crater on the western edge of the Ocean of Storms is named after Hevelius?

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Hevelius Crater – NASA

 

Editor Note: If you enjoyed this Cartography post, check out the first in the series, Cartography and World Building.   Let me know what else you’d like to see…

[1] https://www.greekmythology.com/Titans/Selene/selene.html

[2] https://cnx.org/contents/t7AGYlN-@4/The-Moon

[3] https://cnx.org/contents/t7AGYlN-@4/The-Moon

Posted in Language, Science, Word Wednesday, Writing

Word Wednesday: Dord, the mysterious ghost word

The Mysterious “Dord”

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In 1934, the word Dord appeared in the Second Edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary on page 771, between “dorcopsis” (“a genus of small kangaroos of Papau”) and “doré,” (“golden in color”).

It was defined as a noun meaning Density in Physics and Chemistry.

Before it came into the everyday lexicon, however, it was removed in the 1939 Edition. Why? It was found out to be a typist’s error, and not a real word, by an editor who noticed that it was missing its etymology (origin) and decided to follow up.

The following is an excerpt from The Story of Webster’s Third: Philip Gove’s Controversial Dictionary and Its Critics (Herbert C. Morton, 1994):

The lack of an etymology for dord, meaning “density,” was noted by an editor on February 28, 1939, when he was perusing the dictionary. Startled by the omission, he went to the files to track down what had happened and what needed to be done. There, he found, first, a three-by-five white slip that had been sent to the company by a consultant in chemistry on July 31, 1931, bearing the notation “D or d, cont/ density.” It was intended to be the basis for entering an additional abbreviation at the letter D in the next edition. The notation “cont,” short for “continued,” was to alert the typist to the fact that there would be several such entries for abbreviations at D. A change in the organization of the dictionary possibly added to the confusion that followed. For the 1934 edition, all abbreviations were to be assembled in a separate “Abbreviations” section at the back of the book; in the previous edition words and abbreviations appeared together in a single alphabetical listing (which is how they again appeared in the Third Edition.) But after the original slip was typed for editorial handling, it was misdirected. Eventually, it came to be treated with the words rather than with the abbreviations.

The editorial stylist who received the first typed version should have marked “or” to be set in italics to indicate that the letters were abbreviations (D or d). But instead, she drew a continuous wavy line underneath to signify that “D or d” should be set in boldface in the manner of an entry word, and a label was added, “Physics & Chem.” Since entry words were to be typed with a space between letters, the editorial stylist may have inferred that the typist had intended to write d o r d; the mysterious “cont” was ignored. These errors should have been caught when the word was retyped on a different color slip for the printer, but they were not. The stylist who received this version crossed out the “cont” and added the part-of-speech label n for noun.

“As soon as someone else entered the pronunciation,” Gove wrote, “dord was given the slap on the back that sent breath into its being. Whether the etymologist ever got a chance to stifle it, there is no evidence. It simply has no etymology. Thereafter, only a proofreader had final opportunity at the word, but as the proof passed under his scrutiny he was at the moment not so alert and suspicious as usual.”

The last slip in the file – added in 1939 – was marked “plate change imperative/urgent.” The entry was deleted, and the space was closed up by lengthening the entry that followed. In 1940 bound books began appearing without the ghost word but with a new abbreviation. In the list of meanings for the abbreviation “D or d” appeared the phrase “density,Physics.” Probably too bad, Gove added, “for why shouldn’t dord mean density?”

 

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For further reading: 

“The History of Dord,” in American Speech, 29 (Philip Gove, 1954)

http://www.fun-with-words.com/websters_dord.html

This Day in History : February 28, 1939

The greatest scientific typo in history

Posted in Books, Did You Know ?, Science

That “Old Book Smell”

If you ever wandered up into the attic to look at your grandparent’s old books, or through a used bookstore perusing the shelves, you know that smell.  When you open one of the tomes and flip through the pages, did you ever wonder what causes that “Old Book Smell“? It is sort of a hint of vanilla, maybe a little grassy smell, with some mustiness?

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for second hand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.
Perfumes: The A-Z  Guide by Luca Turin

 

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The Aroma of Books infographic courtesy of Compound Chem

 

In the 1920s and 1930s, Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), an Austrian writer, journalist and playwright was one of the most popular writers in the world, at the height of his career. In The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, author George Prochnik explains:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1[H]e often seemed more concerned with the smell, look, and feel of his work than with the actual words. Printer’s ink struck him as the most fragrant odor on earth — “sweeter than attar of roses from Shiraz.”

Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

Prolific author Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), of Fahrenheit 451The Martian Chronicles, and many other works both inside and outside the realm of science fiction whose career spanned over 70 years, believed:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever.

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Ray Bradbury circa 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images)


New York Times
 tech blogger Nick Bilton wrote about wandering into a West Village bookstore on a visit to New York:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time. The scent of physical books—the paper, the ink, the glue—can conjure up memories of a summer day spent reading on a beach, a fall afternoon in a coffee shop, or an overstuffed chair by a fireplace as rain patters on a windowsill.

Be sure to check out The New York Times [LENS] which has a beautiful slideshow of old, discarded books.

NYT
By Kerry Mansfield. From “Discarded Books, Recovered Nostalgia” – New York Times

 

For Further Reading: 

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers’  Is It More Than Old Book Smell?

Smithsonian Magazine “That ‘Old Book Smell’ is a Mix of Grass and Vanilla”

Matija Strlič’s Study in 2009: Material Degradomics: On the Smell of Old Books

Stefan Zweig: Grand Budapest Hotel’s Inspiration

The Smell of Books

The Science of “The Smell of Books”

Note:Old book bindings at the Merton College library, photo by Tom Murphy VII distributed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

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Posted in Fact-Checking, Science, She blinded me with science

She blinded me with Science: “Scientists have removed HIV from human immune cells using a new gene-editing technique”

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Scanning electron micrograph of an HIV-infected H9 T cell. Credit: NIAID/Flickr

Scientists edited HIV-1 DNA out of the genome of human immune cells, preventing virus replication and reinfection of the unedited cells.

Using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique, scientists at Temple University eliminated HIV-1 DNA from T cell genomes in lab experiments, and prevented reinfection after the cells were re-exposed to the virus, they report in a study published in Nature: Scientific Reports.

Did You Know?

CRISPR is essentially an enzyme that slices DNA like a pair of scissors, and a guide RNA that takes it to the right spot in the genome. (It was developed from a method that bacteria use to fight off viruses.)

Sources:

For More Information:

    • March 22, 2016 All five of the scientists (Feng Zhang, Jennifer Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Philippe Horvath, and Rodolphe Barrangou) that worked on CRISPR’s development were announced as winners of the 2016 Canada Gairdner International Award. The awards provide a $100,000 (CDN) prize to each scientist for their work.
      • The Canada Gairdner International Awards, created in 1959, are given annually to recognize and reward the achievements of medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to the understanding of human biology and disease. The five honorees of the International Awards are selected after a rigorous two-part review, with the winners voted by secret ballot by a medical advisory board composed of 33 eminent scientists from around the world.
  • The Winter 2015 issue of Genome Magazine has an article by Kendall Morgan, entitled “Brave New World“, which I fact-checked, and is the reason behind my putting science articles on my blog.
Posted in Editor Notes, Fact-Checking, Science

Just the facts … about Fact-checking

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As an editor, I enjoy expanding my knowledge and keeping my skills fresh. One never knows of the next opportunity that will arise in an email,  a phone call, or a conversation.  To that end, I started doing Science Fact-checking in 2014 connecting through a social media post that I was interested in, and my name got passed on to the Managing Editor.

Being detail-oriented and meticulous to be sure that every fact is correct and sourced, is an essential part of being a fact-checker in the field of science. It is also an important trait for all fact-checking—accuracy and patience while you wait for the subject matter expert to get back to you in email; while you search through journals and articles to find the one statistic that either supports or refutes the claim made by the author.

Fact-check everything — but be ready and willing to admit ignorance.

—Dig until you find the answer, even if it doesn’t match the statistics given
—Be curious about the primary source material when verifying a claim
—Some claims you won’t be able to fact-check, and that is okay… explain that the answer is muddled or different from what the author writes. it is okay to refute the claim being made by current research that has just come out.

What to Fact-Check? 

—All of it!
—Proper names, titles, and locations.
—An annotated source list, including names, phone numbers, institution names, and email addresses of each human source.

This is important so your fact-checker can check the article and the exact ideas and point of view that match what the author wrote. If you don’t leave a trail for the fact-checker to follow, and they have to do their own research, or track down different sources than the ones you cited, you may come away with a skewed vision of what you were trying to say.

In 2012, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson wrote his cover story for Newsweek, “Hit The Road, Barack”, criticizing President Barack Obama’s economic and financial relations accomplishments. Newsweek printed it without checking the facts.  Paul Krugman of The New York Times, explains how he keeps his editor informed about his sources:

[a]nyone who writes for it document all of his or her factual assertions – and an editor should check that documentation to see that it actually matches what the writer says.

That’s how it works at the Times, or at least how it works for me. I supply a list of sources with each column submission…Each time I send in a column draft, the copy editor runs quickly through the citations, making sure that they match what I assert. Sometimes the editor feels that I go further than the source material actually justifies; in that case we either negotiate a rewording, or drop the assertion altogether.

Is the source knowledgeable?

You need to be sure that your sources have the expertise and credentials in the subject matter. For example, using the American Cancer SocietyNational Cancer Institute, or the Centers for Disease Control to fact-check the latest claims and keep updated on research and development.

I subscribe to a variety of science journals and magazines, both online and in print;  as well as websites that have the latest cutting edge research.  It is never a bad thing to be up on the latest news and studies.

Fact-checking helps to improve the trustworthiness of the publication, by its accuracy and well-supported information for the reader.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in response to the Ferguson misrepresentation, in his 2012 The Atlantic article, defended fact-checkers:

[f]act-checkers serve as a valuable check to prevent writers from lapsing into the kind of arrogant laziness which breeds plagiarism and the manufacture of facts. The fact-checker (and the copy-editor too actually) is a dam against you embarrassing yourself, or worse, being so arrogant that don’t even realize you’ve embarrassed yourself. Put differently, a culture of fact-checking, of honesty, is as important as the actual fact-checking.

Even though my name isn’t on the articles that I fact-check,  to get the physical copy of the magazine in my mailbox, and skim the table of contents; seeing the articles in there gives me great pride to say I had a hand in that.  To see a list of my science fact-checked articles, come on over to my Bookshelf, and look for the Genome Magazine listings.

Checklist Image courtesy of Shutterstock