How Science has advanced since the Victorian Era...

by ziddina 71 Replies latest social current

  • ziddina

    Buttonhooks, steam-run horseless carriages, corsets, steamships, gaslight streetlights, wax candles....

    These things were considered the 'latest' in "modern conveniences" during the Victorian era.

    The Victorian era also ushered in some exciting new scientific discoveries and inventions - uranium, x-rays, electric telegraphs, bicycles, and a good part of the Industrial Revolution.

    Of course, nowadays we wouldn't DREAM of using buttonhooks to 'button up' our shoes, nor would we even consider having a steam-powered "horseless carriage" in our garage.

    We wouldn't allow a dentist to work on us using 19th-century tools or techniques, nor would we trust a psychologist who insisted on using "phrenology" to determine why we have mood swings or depressions...

  • wha happened?
    wha happened?

    yes, isn't the world go to hell in a handbasket without Victorian era medical practices, hygiene, racism, and women as 2nd class citizens?

  • NewChapter

    Great topic, Zid! Science has really served us well, but it is progressive. It is a method that works. Science is not fearful of making mistakes, and that has given us the courage to explore what we never dreamed of. It is not dogmatic, but an ongoing process. That's the beauty of it. Results are always open to challenge, and if they are falsified, Science adjusts rather than digging in on tradition etc.

    I found this recap of 2012 in regards to human evolution. This is only one year, and there are 10 days left. It is only a tiny slice of what scientists are investigating---but what a year! Look at all the expanded understanding.

    This is a great wrap-up of discoveries in 2012 regarding human evolution.

    A 3.4 million-year-old fossil foot suggests a second lineage of hominins (creatures more closely related to us than to our closest living relatives, chimpanzees) may have lived alongside Lucy’s kind and spent more time in the trees than on the ground.

    Fossils from Kenya dating to between 1.87 million and 1.95 million years ago rekindle debate over whether our own genus, Homo, split into multiple lineages early on.

    Analysis of tartar, molar wear and tooth chemistry in the nearly two-million-year-old hominin known as Australopithecus sediba shows that it had an unexpected diet, including tree bark.

    A shift in the technology and diet of early Homo around two million years ago may have doomed large carnivores

    Tiny bits of burned plants and bone from a South African cave show that humans had tamed fire by 1 million years ago–some 600,000 year earlier than had previously been documented.

    Our ancestors began making multicomponent tools in the form of deadly stone-tipped spears 500,000 years ago—200,000 years earlier than previously thought.

    Cave paintings in Spain are the oldest in the world and are sufficiently ancient to be the creations of Neandertals.

    Neandertals hunted birds for their fashionable feathers for thousands of years and may have exploited certain plants for their medicinal properties–compelling evidence that our hominin cousins were cognitively sophisticated.

    Reconstructed genome of the Denisovans–an enigmatic group of archaic hominins—confirms that early Homo sapiens interbred with them and reveals new details of their genetic legacy.

    Whole-genome sequencing of modern hunter-gatherers from Africa turns up loads of previously unknown genetic variants and indicates that early Homo sapiens interbred with another hominin species long ago in Africa.

    Paleoanthropology’s hobbit, a tiny hominin species called Homo floresiensis, gets a new face thanks to forensic reconstruction–and the result is startlingly familiar.

    Stone tools and preserved poop from Oregon add to mounting evidence that the early human colonization of the Americas was more complex than scholars once envisioned.

    Study finds that mom’s metabolism—not the size of the pelvis—limits gestation length to nine months, providing a new explanation for why humans give birth to helpless babies.

  • ziddina

    In the Victorian era fossil hunters - fledgling paleontologists - would even occasionally use DYNAMITE to excavate their finds...

    At first, the fossil hunters had a great deal of difficulty identifying specific animals. Nowadays, with paleontologists working all over the globe, and quick internet communication PLUS a vast stock of specimens to compare new finds to, paleontologists have become much more accomplished at identifying fossil remains.

    Unfortunately, the Victorian fossil hunters - and I refer to them as 'fossil hunters', not paleontologists, for they hadn't even begun to reach the level of scientific achievement that paleontologists have accomplished, today - were often unable to identify the bones that they found.

    At that time, the ONLY accurate way to identify a skeleton was if they somehow succeeded in finding an intact skeleton - which is a rather rare occurence, even in today's paleontology.

    Add to that the burden of having to deal with a still-active belief in the literal reality of a 'noaic flood', and the fact that the fossil hunters had NO modern animals that were recognizably related to their discoveries - well, it's a tribute to the hard work and dedication of a few scientifically-minded fossil hunters that they were able to idenify certain species at all!

  • brizzzy

    The female orgasm was discovered and we now use vibrators for their real purpose, rather than to "treat hysteria" by "inducing paroxysms" to "cleanse the womb".

    Oh, and also we know that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were actually the same dinosaur, and that while Apatosaurus is technically the correct name, Brontosaurus has been used as a popular synonym for over a century due to being more of an appropriate name (meaning "thunder lizard"). But then, I guess that's not all that recent of an advancement, seeing as they figured it out 110 effing years ago and anybody with even the tiniest modicum of interest in dinosaurs already knows about it.

  • ziddina

    That's interesting, New Chapter!!

    I'm somewhat familiar with the state of paleontology during the Victorian era, but I don't know much about the state of anthropology at that time...

  • ziddina

    Ha ha!! Brizzzy!!

    Due to the popularity of the term "brontosaurus", it remained in use FAR past the time when the paleontologists determined that brontosaurus and apatosaurus were the same species of animal.

    Heck, I 'cut my teeth' on "brontosaurus" - literally!! I had a 13-inch-long model of a "brontosaurus" - as it was still being popularly referred to, even in the 1950s!!

    I guess the name "brontosaurus" just stuck with the general public...

    I didn't learn that the two were actually ONE species and that the term "brontosaurus" was totally obsolete in accurate paleontological textbooks, until I was in my teens!!!

    So many of the books aimed at the general public were still using "brontosaurus", even in the mid-20th century and into the 70's, if I recall correctly.

  • mamochan13

    One of the most amazing trips of my life was to the original dig site in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. One of the early digs is left in situ as an exhibit. The dinosaur skeleton is laying in the ground, almost perfect, but it is missing its head. It really gives you a sense of what it was like for these early paleontologists, and what a guessing game it was at times to reconstruct what they were finding.

    AS NC says, science is amazing that way. The puzzle of finding little bits and pieces and testing them to see where they fit. Sometimes a piece seems perfect, yet along the way something else comes along and you realize the fit was incorrect. Science is a constant readjusting process, which is why even things we accept as truth are still called theory.

  • NewChapter

    I'm somewhat familiar with the state of paleontology during the Victorian era, but I don't know much about the state of anthropology at that time...

    UGH! It was a mess. It was Anthropology that introduced the idea that there are fundamental differences between the 'races'. They did the skull measurements and all that jazz.

    But here is the interesting part. It was Anthropologists that came to realize it was horseshit. They falsified their own theories, and took it to the world. Of course, the world was not necessarily ready to hear that, but they didn't back down, and they didn't hide from their past mistakes. I found it very interesting that when I started taking Anthropology classes, this was one of the first things we learned---the big mistake. And many mistakes are routinely referred to, along with the process that corrected them. They do this to teach skeptism and strong critical thinking. Just because science says so, doesn't mean it cannot be questioned. It's all there for anyone to test----falsify it and you will be celebrated.

    It's a good method. Scientist disagree on terms all the time. Naming the brontasaurus or whatever is not really a big deal. It happens quite often. Then there is the particular discipline and how they tend to categorize things. You'll find that one avenue may use broader terms for different species, lumping more together, whereas other areas will be more persnickety and break down species into micro-categories. This goes for many areas. It's really not a jaw dropper. It's part of the process.

    For instance, there is the concept of the Last Common Ancestor (LCA). There is no right answer, but the best one for the purpose is used. We could say that Lucy (australopithecus) is our LCA----but that may be too broad, depending on the purpose. Another looking at a slightly different angle may identify the LCP as H. erectus---or whatever. Context means a lot. None of this is earth shattering when you understand the language and intent.

  • ziddina

    Interesting, Mamochan, and that reminds me of this link:

    This is, of course, the MODERN method... Quite a far cry from the days when they occasionally blasted the skeletons out of the ground!!

    A brief quote:

    The basic techniques that prepare us for the scientific study of fossils are simple and can be mastered by young students. By becoming involved in the discovery, preparation, curation, and interpretation of fossils, students can understand the process of science and even contribute new knowledge.
    Fossils are the remains of extinct organisms. They are first discovered where natural erosion or human excavations have exposed fossil-bearing rocks. The field paleontologist collects fossils and maintains a careful and thorough field notebook which outlines precisely the geographic locality and the rock layers in which the fossils were discovered. This is critical information for all fossils because it establishes the time and place the plant or animal once lived.
    Once the well-documented fossils make it back to the laboratory, usually at a museum, university, or school, they are carefully cleaned and prepared to insure they will be preserved and stabilized as close as possible to the original state of the organism. The specimens are then described to record what was actually found - a fragmentary leaf or shell, a part of a skull, or a complete skeleton - and identified to determine the kind of organism. All of the information surrounding each specimen - where it was found; what rock layer it was discovered in ; who discovered it; what is preserved; what organism it represent; and when it was discovered - is recorded into a catalog book and a computer data record for ready reference and shared use. The specimens are placed into archival trays or boxes and metal cabinets or shelving to ensure safe handling and preservation for future students and scientists. All of the specimens are kept together in a collection. The very special and unique scientific and educational specimens will make it to the museum exhibition where, equally important, everyone will learn from them and enjoy their value to our understanding of past life.

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