5211 miles. In the distance that runs roughly from London to Karachi, Pakistan, I spent the summer of 2016 driving across the western half of the United States to visit six atomic sites. Each site was integral in the production of the US nuclear arsenal during World War II and the Cold War. While I was in search of local archives, each local atomic museum proved much more captivating. After long, solitary drives through wide open desert and mountains, I came to look forward to the stimulation of poking through their exhibits. At the beginning of the trip, I did not know what to expect from each museum, though I suspected that each would lean heavily on ideas of objectivity in their portrayals of local atomic histories. I did encounter exhibits that made unalloyed claims about objective scientific and historical truths. But, I found so much more at the museums. Three themes leap to the fore on the trip. The museums instill awe by displaying the sublime and grandiose aspects of the bomb. They invoke objectivity by using heroic scientists as exemplars for truth. Finally, they exude opportunity by pointing to possible atomic futures. I argue that the museums rely on affect and desire more than they rely on objectivity to tell the US’ atomic story.
Door Timo Bolt
In mijn vorige bijdrage aan Shells & Pebbles, getiteld ‘why do you write?’, schreef ik over een ingezonden brief die onder diezelfde kop in 1976 werd gepubliceerd in The Lancet. De auteur, de Ierse arts J.B. Healy, vroeg zich daarin af waarom er zo ‘monsterlijk’ veel artikelen in medische tijdschriften werden gepubliceerd. Was het hoofddoel nieuwe kennis te verspreiden en de geneeskunde te verbeteren? Of ging het primair om het publiceren van zoveel mogelijk papers, in het belang van de auteur(s) zelf? Om deze vragen te kunnen beantwoorden deed Healy het voorstel om voor de periode van een jaar een moratorium in te stellen ‘on the appending of authors’ names and of the names of hospitals to articles in medical journals.’ Mocht vervolgens blijken dat er veel minder artikelen zouden worden aangeboden aan tijdschriftredacties, dan zou de medisch-wetenschappelijke gemeenschap ‘zichzelf ontmaskerd hebben’, aldus Healy.
By Ivan Flis
Every scientific discipline has its famous experiments. The case is no different for psychology. In the company of famous psychological experiments, one study is often mentioned as the fulcrum of the behaviorist revolution of American psychology – the story of a little boy named Albert and the attempt to teach him fear.
By Bert Theunissen
Of all sports horses competing at the most recent Olympic Games, 30 % were Dutch-bred. And of the ten gold medals available, five were awarded to horses from the Netherlands.
This is a remarkable achievement, considering that the Dutch do not have a long tradition in horse breeding like the Germans, the English and the French. Especially France and Germany, which had state-sponsored studs for centuries, have long been in the lead in sports such as show jumping and dressage, while England has been famous for its Thoroughbred racing horses since the late eighteenth century.
By Jorrit Smit
On the Sunday before Christmas, I bike to the UCLA campus in Westwood for the last time. Out of breath and full of sweat after climbing the hill in a boringly radiant sun, I find professor Norton Wise waiting for me outside Bunche Hall. With a special key he activates the elevator, which takes us to the sixth floor and his office. The quarter has already ended, the campus is deserted, but the climate control still runs full power. Under these circumstances, Wise and I speak about sources, philosophy and himself in the history of science. Norton Wise was previously director of the history of science program at Princeton University, and returned to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2000 to become Distinguished Professor in History and soon Co-Director of the Institute for Society and Genetics (until 2011).
Door Timo Bolt
Tijdens mijn onderzoek naar de (voor)geschiedenis van evidence-based medicine stuitte ik min of meer bij toeval op onderstaande brief in the Lancet van 24 januari 1976.
Why do you write?
Sir, – The number of medical papers published is monstruous large. How much has one really learned from last year’s erratic efforts to read journals? And think of all the work involved in producing the published and unpublished papers, the millions of blood-samples, and the laboratory tests, and of all the assistants, medical and paramedical, who had to be employed; and think of all the people who were measured and tested as controls. Was the primary object of all this to improve the treatment of disease or to publish papers? If the former, then publishing is only a secondary object – that of letting other doctors know something that may be of use to them. But if publication is the primary object, then one naturally suspects that the work is being done for advancement and benefit of the author(s); it is scarcely being done for the benefit of other practitioners.
By Noortje Jacobs and Steven van der Laan
Do animals carry legal obligations? To the twenty-first century reader of Shells & Pebbles this question might appear to be odd. Surely, only in fables pigs are summoned to appear before a judge to be held accountable for any misdemeanour. Not quite. In past centuries, animal trials were not unheard of. In fact, one might wonder with the advent of the animal rights movement in the twentieth century, whatever happened to animal duties? A blog post on a cat in court.
An Interview with Professor Margaret Jacob, by Jorrit Smit
On one of those sunny, warm, Californian fall afternoons, I meet professor Margaret Jacob in the Herbert Morris Seminar Room on the first floor of Royce Hall in the middle of the UCLA campus. The well-known early-modern scholar has just entertained a crowd of scholars, students and unidentified passers-by with a talk on Unitarianism in 18th and 19th century Britain. The high correlation between rich industrialists and Unitarianism, she observes, is not captured by Weber’s alleged association of capitalism with Protestantism. It is one of those things she has stumbled upon in a long and rich career in intellectual and cultural history of Early Modern Europe. On Unitarianism, she hopes to write a book one day, but for now the talk suffices.
Door Abel Streefland
Het was het eerste interview dat ik als promovendus afnam. Dolf de Vries woonde in Buitenveldert in een mooi groot opgezet appartement op de eerste verdieping, tegenover bejaardenhuis Beth Shalom. Een kleine Joodse mijnheer, kwiek voor zijn 86 jaar. Van zijn familie moest hij in huis altijd met een rollator lopen, maar daar had hij een hekel aan. Liever liep hij zonder. Beretrots was hij op zijn net aangeschafte ipad. “Echt de toekomst”, fluisterde hij me toe. Op tafel lag de Groene Amsterdammer.
By Fransje Pansters
Teylers Museum is the best preserved public institute for art and science of the 18th century world. The founders wanted to bring together all available knowledge about arts and sciences, as a microcosm of the world. It opened its doors to the public in 1784. People could come to the museum to read books and look at prints and drawings, but also to attend scientific demonstrations or listen to lectures. Throughout the 19th century Teylers Museum was an important knowledge institution. Today, the collection objects and stories are also accessible online.