Friday, January 02, 2009


Partly as a result of the alternative approach to study I mentioned in my last post, I decided I needed to invert the knowledge base, or turn it upside down. That means, in this case, going from more complex to simpler. In the various breakdowns I've used for working on it, things seem to go more easily if I do it that way. However, I'm beginning at the science end, so it's something of a hybrid.

In informal explorations of the local neighborhood, I've taken an interest in the local biology. It's the middle of the winter, so what I see most deals with biology, and particularly plants. I started attacking a bush with pruning clippers in order to clear a path down the hill so I can follow the runoff from my apartment's parking lot. This had the thorns (technically prickles) of a rose, so I spent a few hours searching the internet, and came up with a probable identification, Rosa multiflora. This bush had the high, arching branches associated with this species, abundant prickles (although some of its neighbors are more so). I couldn't find the clusters of tiny rose hips associated with this species at first, but found some the next time I attacked it.
Since the multiflora rose is now regarded as a pestiferous intrusive species ( it was intentional introduced some 80 years ago) , I figure no one's going to complain if I cut a few of them to pieces. I've been wanting to make contact with someone to give me help in plant identification, so I finally tracked down one of the county extension agents (by phone), and luckily got hold of one. Based on my description of the plant and where it was growing, he agreed with me that that's probably what it is, but a definite confirmation will have to wait a couple of weeks until everyone is back from vacation.

As part of my look at small scale, inexpensive industry, I started looking at stoves for heating. I'm not interested in the home scale, I'm interested for now in experimental, small scale heaters. There are some varieties that run on small branches and twigs, but since I rent and don't have property or much of a budget for tools and supplies, these aren't much use to me. This led me into what is called the pyrolysis, or destructive distillation of wood, and I got a quick review of the chemistry and physics of wood combustion. This interests me for several reasons, from both theoretical and applied points of view.

I'm taking a number of passes through science history, and started with modern history, concentrating on the 16th century. I expanded this century into 20 year periods, and so far have Copernicus and Kepler as major figures. I've looked briefly at the application of Sociology and institutions. I'm also taking a look at expanding other areas of science.

Part of the motivation came from a renewed interest in chemistry. My version of the periodic table is now filled out, and I'm in the revising the appearance of the alphabetical list of elements.
I've also created a few more compound pages, including the simplest organic compounds, those with only one carbon atom, although I have notes on those with two carbon atoms. Organic chemistry gets very complicated, very fast, as the size of the carbon skeleton goes up.

In the process of filling out more details for the particular compounds, I found myself looking for physical properties, which suggests a review of physics, and thus led round about to deciding to invert the whole knowledge base. I started this with mechanics, particle mechanics in particular, but I will want to consider this in more detail.

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