Friday, May 27, 2011

Day #227 Measuring Up

You probably know by now that I’m a voracious reader. And that I love libraries, because they give me a chance to try out all sorts of books that I might not read otherwise.

A week or so ago I picked up A Measure of Everything: an illustrated guide to the science of measurement, edited by Christopher Joseph. Don’t you wonder how often Christopher was called Joseph in grade school?

At any rate, the book is a compendium of short definitions (from about 3 to maybe 14 lines each) of everything you might ever need to measure. The subjects are grouped according to where they fit in:
o   Earth and Life Sciences
o   Physical Sciences
o   Technology and Leisure

Naturally, I looked up Bees. Nothing.  Just becquerel (a unit of radioactivity) and bel (a unit of sound intensity, equal to 10 decibels) on either side of where “bees” ought to have been. I found blood money, with its rather gruesome Anglos Saxon definition, and barn. Yes, barn. A barn a unit of area used in particle physics, equal to 100 square femtometers. Aren’t you glad I cleared that up?

Then I looked up Honey Bees. The H’s ranged from haab (the civil calendar used by the Mayans) to hysteresis, which the index said was on page 162, but which actually showed up on 163. I’m glad it wasn’t any farther away or I never would have found it and would, therefore, never have known that hysteresis is the degree to which a strain depends on the history of all previous stresses as well as the present stress.  Uh, right.

Quite by accident, I found Swarm, which was right below Hive. I should have looked through those H’s more carefully. The definition for hive was okay, but I beg to differ with what Mr. Joseph says about a swarm. He should have consulted with a beekeeper before saying that a swarm of bees is led by a queen. Not so. The queen is lured out of the hive by her workers, surrounded, and pretty much forced to go where they decide to go.

Now my trust has been shattered. If he’s made a mistake on swarm, how will I ever trust him for those essential definitions of apoapsis, kinematic viscosity, or rayleigh?


BEEattitude for Day # 227:
       Blessed are those who use words with precision, for they shall, hopefully, be understood.

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