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Archive for the 'science' Category

How Randomised Trials won the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Listening to Karl Kruszelnicki’s Shirtloads of Science podcast episode on June 24, 2018 – titled Randomistas – they’ve won wars, healed the sick and helped us learn revealed an interesting example, in Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, as to the value of randomised trials in shaping the World. The interviewee was Andrew Leigh, author of Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Changed Our World.

To set the scene, Andrew Leigh points out that in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) scurvy caused the vast majority of deaths. A huge 180,000 men died in the British Navy in those seven years and a less impressive couple of thousand were killed in the fighting. Scurvy was that bad.

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Longitude (Book Review)

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Longitude by Dava Sobel

The sailor in my bones called out to read Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time by Dava Sobel. The longitude problem had plagued seafaring civilisations since Ptolemy. It was a scientific problem that eluded answers until, in 1773, an Englishman named John Harrison, after forty years of experimentation, development and political warfare, claimed the 20,000 pound reward put forward by the Longitude Act 1714. This was the pressing scientific question of the age.

Consider the scientific simplicity of the latitude problem that can be understood through cosmic cycles including the length of a day or the height of the sun or by identifying known stars above the horizon. Latitude is a series of concentric circles that include the Equator where the Sun passes closest to the Earth and the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer that respectively mark the sun’s extremes of journey from Southern-most-to-Northern-most traverse. Latitudes are a series of parallel lines around the planet. Any sailor could know their latitude, how high up or low down a parallel line they were traversing, because latitude is fixed by the laws of nature. But consider the complexity of determining longitude.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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