Bits of Books - Books by Title


Simon Clark

More books on Invents

Aristotle's Meteorologia summarised all human knowledgeof the atmosphere and weather. But Greek gentlemen weren't supposed to experiment, and no instruments wereavailable to measure weather anyway.

Galileo had 2 advantages over the Ancient Greeks. Firstly he had access to farmore advanced mathematical methods especially from Arab world algebra and concept of zero. And crucially, he had glass. And he used that to make a thermoscope, a forerunner of the thermometer which appeared 100 years later.

Daniel Fahrenheit made first reliable mercury thermometer, and then Andres Celsius invented the 0 to 100 degrees sccale.

German V2 rocket killed more people during its construction than by its use.

Right up to time of Isaac Newton everyone thought 'weather' developed in situ - ie local factors determined. Daniel Defoe was the first person to come up with modern idea that winds carried the weather from one place to the next. After the Great Storm of 1703, Defoe placed newspaper ads asking readers to send him their personal accounts of the storm, which he then compiled as a book. The reports came from all over Western Europe, and it became clear that it was the same storm causing havoc across England, France and Germany, and then upset shipping on the Baltic Sea.

The intellectual explosion of the Enlightenment was financed by the wealth transferred to Europe by the exploitation of slaves and subjugated natives of the New World and India.

Invention of telegraph meant meteorlogical observations could be taken over whole continents, and collated in central databases, nearly in real time.

Idea that you cd forecast weather was seen as radical, and technically illegal. The BritishWitchcraft Act of 1735 defined claims to be able to foretell the future as witchcraft. It wasn't repealed until 1953.

Robert Fitzroy regarded as father of modern meteorology. (He was also captain of Darwin's HMS Beagle, and the second governor of NZ). As head of the Royal Society dept which collected weather data from all over England and from ships. He became convinced that changes in weather cd be predicted by interpreting what was happening to the atmosphere at a large number of other points. He came up with the term forecasting to describe. He spent the equivalent of £400,000 of his own money fruitlessly trying to convince the Establishment of the merits of his ideas. But as a debout Christian he was tormented by his inadvertent contribution to Darwin's theories, and he committed suicide. A man with one foot in the past, and one foot in a future that most could not see.

Tropical cyclones (aka hurricanes or typhoons) form when air is heated above tropical ocean, causing extensive convection. Air rushes in and starts to rotate due to Coriolis force. (US National Hurricane Center names storms off alphabetical lists. Particularly devastating storms have name 'retired',sothere have been no Hurricane katrinas since 2006 - now Katia.)

Chaos Theory - every data point has a (small) uncertainty. A temp reading might be recorded as 20.1°C, but it could actually be anywhere between 20.05 and 20.15°C. By itself this is a tiny error, but when you're taking tens of thousands of measurements, it adds up fast.

Scientists try to get round this problem by running ensemble forecasts - running the sim multiple times but with slightly different initial conditions, and then taking the average of all the predicted outcomes.

Coal originated in the Carboniferous Era, 360 to 300 million years ago, when a primitive tree Lepidodendrales, grew everywhere. These proto-trees had very shallow roots, so they always fell over when grew to certain height. But at this stage, bacteria had not appeared, so there was nothing to rot the wood. Instead, the fallen trees just lay there, with more and more trees falling on top of them. Then plate movements covered them with sedimentary rock, compressing the trees into coal and oil.

More books on Pre-History

Books by Title

Books by Author

Books by Topic

Bits of Books To Impress