2012-02-23 06:23:55The History of Climate Science, Pt 1: William Charles Wells
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
24.213.18.68

First part of a new series; blog post here:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/The_History_of_Climate_Science_-_William_Charles_Wells.html

Thoughts, comments and suggestions for improvement welcome.

2012-02-23 09:16:16
logicman

logicman_alf@yahoo.co...
86.183.238.167

Brilliant and well-researched!

typos:

That paper’s title as “first” is conventional, and the Remarques générales is indeed noteworthy.  However, considered out of context, it can mislead:  it omits the mathematical development which Fourier gave the elsewhere, nor does it

At any rate, Wells that admits that Descarte’s suggestion that moisture can rise from soil or vegetation is a possibility, but argues convincingly that any such effect must be very small indeed.

 

By a strange coincidence I have been researching the history of the use of the thermometer in meteorology.  The name Dr. Wells rang a bell immediately:

"Clouds have a great influence on terrestrial radiation, a phaenomenon of temperature worthy of particular attention : on a clear, calm night, a greater degree of cold occurs on the surface of the earth, than in the atmosphere a few feet above it ; the fact was first noticed by Mr. Sixe, and subsequently applied by Dr. Wells in the explanation of his theory of the formation of dew."

A Manual of the thermometer - John Henry Belville, 1850

2012-02-23 13:37:26
Tom Curtis

t.r.curtis@gmail...
112.213.180.137

I have not read the post in any detail, so no particular comments, except that this post is a must have for SkS, as will be (I am sure) the rest of the series.

2012-02-23 20:18:01
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.45.191

It's rather long.

2012-02-23 20:59:21
Ari Jokimäki

arijmaki@yahoo...
194.251.119.197

This is excellent article!

2012-02-24 00:24:20
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

Thanks, logicman, fixed.  And yes, an interesting coincidence indeed.  It certainly makes sense that Wells would appear in connection with a history of thermometric observation.

Thanks, Tom & Ari.

neal, the length is a concern for me, too.  I love the colorful details I have left in, and feel that it's important to have at least some of them for historical context--but it's always a legitimate question just how relevant they are, and just how germane they are.  As a newbie, it's perhaps a bit harder for me to know just where the line should be drawn, so other opinions on this are welcome.  (Not that I *want* to make more cuts--it's always hard work!)  I did manage to wring out a few more 'empty words' in doing the edit prompted by logicman's comment, but it's a marginal difference.

2012-02-24 02:52:25
logicman

logicman_alf@yahoo.co...
86.183.238.167

Doc: I wonder what others here think about this suggestion:

 

Keep the article broadly as is for an intermediate version, but reduce by about 10% to 20%.

Write a condensed version - about 50%.

Take the 'as-is' version, add a few more references to give a more complete historical context and have that as the advanced version.

You may wish to consider that, just as Joe Public has never heard of Dr. Wells, so also they have never heard of George Best, Emilie du Chatelet and Ignaz Venetz.  There are many others in the 'history of climate science' timeline before 1800, but Spencer Weart's excellent researches have turned up enough material to fill a book, so an overly exhaustive timeline might be a tad too long for a blog. ;-)

2012-02-24 04:45:27Length
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.45.191

DS, 

As part of a book, the pace would be reasonable. But I have seen quite a bit of material now that suggests that people reading the internet (and people who HAVE BEEN READING the internet) do not have the attention span (= patience) to read long articles.

My recommendation would be to present a version that is down by a factor of 3; and save the long version for a book.

2012-02-24 07:05:09
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

Logicman, njk, thanks for the feedback.  I rather like the idea of more than one version.  I'll be thinking about it/messing about with it.

Anyone else, while I'm doing so?

2012-02-24 10:52:58
John Hartz
John Hartz
john.hartz@hotmail...
98.122.98.161

Is this a rebuttal, or a blog post?

I ask because only rebuttals have a three-tiered structure. In contrast, a blog post is a straight-forward article.

In my opinion, a well-written article should have all of the "take-away points" in the first two-three paragraphs. The remainder provides detail and interseting points.  A summary wraps everything up in a nice neat package.

If this model is used, the length of an article is somewhat irrelevant. Most readers will get what they need by reading the first few paragraphs. People who are really into the issue will read more,

2012-02-24 11:28:37
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.45.191

JH,

I don't really agree with you: If I run out of steam reading an article, my overall impression of the article and topic remains foggy. It's much more effective to give the reader a controlled dosage of information that you know s/he'll get, than to expect the reader to process what you have in a structured way. 

In other words, we shouldn't rely on the opening paragraphs alone to encapsulate everything, without worrying about the rest of the article. Writing should be written to be read as written; if it's not, it should be rewritten. 

2012-02-24 14:41:00
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

Since science history articles are a new wrinkle on SkS, I'm thinking that to some extent we're making the rules here. If it's helpful to our goals here to have history articles with (say) short and long versions, why not do so, even if the formal rubric is 'blog post?'  Unless, that is, there's some software issue making it unreasonably difficult to deviate from canned formats, or something else of the sort?

John's model for an article is more 'journalistic' in its orientation.  Obviously, I haven't followed that model in the present piece, but it does have its advantages nevertheless.

Partly, I've organized the piece as I did because there is something of a split focus.  I think that the historical context is important; part of the point is to have the reader feel, to some degree, just how different the conceptual (and political) world of 1757 was.  Then there's the life of Wells, because another goal is to present the researcher, not as lab-coated abstraction, but as human being.  Finally, there is the paper itself--which is usually 90% or more of a more 'typical' SkS post.  (And not to whine, but On Dew is not the easiest paper ever to summarize!)

No way that all that is going to be 'wrapped' in a couple paragraphs--not by me, anyway; perhaps the genius of concision who could do it is out there somewhere.

However, I do think that I could cut this down, albeit not without loss.  But the 'man in a hurry' would get through it, which is clearly important.  If the less-rushed or more-enthusiastic could check out the full version, then that would satisfy another set of readers, and would be all to the good.

2012-02-24 22:27:53
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Doc, you could always post the original, longer version on your website.  A green box with a note explaining that (with an embedded link to your full version) could be placed at the bottom of the SkS version.

2012-02-24 22:59:35
Ari Jokimäki

arijmaki@yahoo...
194.251.119.197

I didn't think it was too long but then again I'm very keen on science history. Couple of possibilities here:

1. Publish it in three different parts.

2. Write a summary paragraph to the beginning giving the most important things about Wells' work so that those in hurry get the most important message.

2012-02-25 15:27:11
John Hartz
John Hartz
john.hartz@hotmail...
98.122.98.161

Neal,

Busy people may only have the time, or take the time to read the first few paragraphs of an article before moving on to another article or whatever. In today's world, articles are no longer "all or nothing" instruments of communication.

2012-02-25 16:59:04
Andy S

skucea@telus...
209.121.15.232

I enjoyed the article as it is: interesting and well written. This must have involved a lot of research work.

I see no reason why we must have only one concise house style, nor  any rule forbidding longer articles with more a relaxed pace. It only costs electrons. If we are going to attract a broad range of readers we need to vary the style of the goods a little. Nobody is obliged to read the whole thing.

I would agree with Ari that a pithy introduction summarizing the main points would be helpful  readers who are undecided if the subject is for them.

I should decalre a conflict of interest here, since I've got a couple of long articles in the works, one with a history focus.

2012-02-28 10:42:26
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

It seems that that's more or less the comments for now.  My next step will be to do the 'condensed' version.  May take another week, the way things look with other commitments--then we'll see where we are.

Thanks to all for their input!

2012-02-28 10:55:42
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

I am in general agreement with Andy that there is no rule dictating specific styles or maximum/minimum lengths.  In that this is the first of a (hopefully) series I think letting the content define the article is the best course of action.

That being said, perhaps a synopsis at the start would better enable my focus to stay on task in reading it.

2012-03-07 08:55:54
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

Do we want to publish this version, or wait for the condensed version?

2012-03-12 02:53:24
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

I've drafted the shorter version--it comes in about 1100 words shorter, and includes a statement of the important larger points for our purposes in the first 550 words.  With a little luck, I should be able to post it tomorrow (or at latest, Tuesday) as a 'new' blog post.

I like Daniel's idea of going with the shorter version here, and the longer one at Hubpages, if that's OK with everyone.

2012-03-12 11:19:57
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

Shorter version now posted, under the same title, but with the date "March 12."  (Don't ask me; it's still the 11th where I am.)

Tomorrow I will see about editing in the pictures.

2012-03-12 11:57:08
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Doc, the SkS "time" stamp is that of Brisbane, Australia.  Some 14 hours in advance of that of Eastern time, US.

Dana and/or I can change the date stamp on the article when it is placed into the weekly publication schedule.

2012-03-12 13:50:51
Andy S

skucea@telus...
209.121.15.232
One nit: the heading Part One needs to be reformatted to be consistent with parts two and three. I note that there are very few hyperlinks. Doc, if you have any online references for any of your sources, it would be great--and consistent with SkS practice--to include some. When I first came to SkS one of the things I liked the best was the links to copies of articles, so it was easy to go further and not just take (as it was then) John Cook's word for it. Some of the figures, in particular, should be referenced to the original source.
2012-03-12 23:32:11
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

Good point about the hyperlinks, Andy.  I whole-heartedly agree.  The heading format may be moot if we go, as I'd like to, with the shorter version.

2012-03-13 01:24:36
Doc Snow
Kevin McKinney
kdmsooboy@comcast...
76.17.37.231

OK, pictures and titles are edited into the shorter version.  I'll add some hyperlinks as suggested by Andy.