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By Philip Ball

With the hot touchdown of the Mars rover interest, it kind of feels secure to imagine that the assumption of being curious is alive and good in sleek science—that it’s no longer simply inspired yet is noticeable as a vital part of the medical venture. but there has been a time while interest was once condemned. Neither Pandora nor Eve may possibly withstand the harmful attract of unanswered questions, and all wisdom wasn’t equal—for millennia it used to be believed that there have been a few issues we must always no longer try and understand. within the past due 16th century this angle started to swap dramatically, and in interest: How technology took an interest in every thing, Philip Ball investigates how interest first grew to become sanctioned—when it replaced from a vice to a advantage and the way it turned permissible to invite any and each query concerning the world.

Looking heavily on the 16th via eighteenth centuries, Ball vividly brings to lifestyles the age while smooth technology started, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. during this enjoyable and illuminating account of the increase of technological know-how as we all know it, Ball tells of scientists either mythical and lesser recognized, from Copernicus and Kepler to Robert Boyle, in addition to the innovations and applied sciences that have been encouraged by way of interest itself, equivalent to the telescope and the microscope. The so-called medical Revolution is frequently advised as a narrative of serious geniuses illuminating the area with flashes of idea. yet interest finds a extra advanced tale, during which the liberation—and next taming—of interest used to be associated with magic, faith, literature, go back and forth, exchange, and empire. Ball additionally asks what has turn into of interest this day: the way it services in technological know-how, the way it is spun and packaged for intake, how good it truly is being sustained, and the way the altering form of technology affects the categories of questions it may possibly proceed to ask.

Though proverbial knowledge let us know that it was once via interest that our innocence used to be misplaced, that has now not deterred us. as an alternative, it's been thoroughly the opposite: at the present time we spend great sums attempting to reconstruct the 1st instants of production in particle accelerators, out of a natural wish to understand. Ball refuses to allow us to take this hope without any consideration, and this e-book is an ideal homage to such an inquisitive angle.

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In the 1584 edition of Natural Magick he explains that: Concave Lenticulars [lenses] will make one see most clearly things that are afar off. But Convexes, things near at hand. So you may use them as your sight requires. With a Concave Lenticular you shall see small things afar off very clearly. With a Convex Lenticular, things nearer to be bigger, but more obscurely. If you know how to fit them together, you will see both things afar off, and things near hand, both greater and clearly. I have much helped some of my friends, who saw things Ac a d e mie s of S e c re ts 45 afar off weakly, and what was near, confusedly, that they might see all things clearly.

Della Porta’s book established experiment as the modus operandi of natural magic. He says that he personally tested claims found in older writings that seemed hard to credit, and ruled out ones that did not pass muster. Never mind that Albertus Magnus suggests that iron be hardened by tempering it in radish juice or ‘water of earthworms’ – it doesn’t work, Della Porta attested. ) The 1589 edition of Natural Magick reports that the long-standing idea that the attractive force of a magnet is nullified by rubbing it with garlic does not pass this empirical test either (nor, for that matter, does the alleged enhancement in attractive power caused by goat’s blood).

It’s magic. We have perhaps already some intimation (we will acquire more later) that Attenborough’s view of wonder is problematic when seen through the lens of history. The same is true in spades for his take on magic, although as an eminent natural historian he can be trusted for his knowledge of rabbits. That magic has come to connote ‘things that are not actually so’ is a story in itself, for in the mid-sixteenth century it was the closest thing that existed to experimental science. To its principal advocates, natural magic was the most promising avenue for eliminating the supernatural agency of demons or of God from the natural world.

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Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball

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