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Kenan Malik - THE SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENT AND ITS SOUL | Pandaemonium - May 2014
The science writer Philip Ball recently published a post on his blog Homunculus in which he wondered why modern scientific instruments seem to lack the beauty and soul of those of centuries past. Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology at Imperial College, wrote in response, on Occam’s Corner, the Guardian-hosted science blog, a wonderful little essay, in which he questioned some of Philip’s assumptions but made also a case for scientists to have more than an instrumental relationship to their instruments. Philip Ball then wrote an equally insightful reply in which he argued that scientific instruments are made not simply to do a job but also to express a certain image of science, to ‘employ a particular visual rhetoric’ in his words. The changing character of scientific instruments, he suggested, reflects the changing image of science that scientists wish to covey. -- Ball re visual rhetoric - what, and who, these instruments were for. Even for Galileo, the scientific experiment was still at least as much a demonstration as it was an exploration: it was a way of showing that your ideas were right. ...And in the earliest of the early modern era, during the late Renaissance, scientific instruments were objects of power. They were used by the virtuosi to delight and entertain their noble patrons, and thereby to imply a command of the occult forces of nature. For such a display, it was important that a device be impressive to look at: elegance was the key attribute of the courtly natural philosopher.
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may 2014 by dunnettreader

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