Friday, March 5, 2010

Small Wars Journal Posts Low-Tech Methodology

In 1543 the great surgeon Vesalius published De Fabrica, illustrating the muscle and tendon structure with great accuracy.  When it was published he commented, "Not long ago, I would not have dared to diverge a hair's breadth from Galen's opinions."  When he finally did diverge, he commented "I still distrust myself."

Why?  Galen, the great Roman physician had been dead for 1500 years.  He was not allowed to work on human corpses, so he extrapolated from animal surgery.  Vesalius was right, of course, and he knew it.  He was also a practical man interested only in the physical world and how it was arranged. If he contradicted Galen he knew he would have to retract his work then face prison or execution.

And that's part of the problem.  Publishing low-tech methodology is a sure ticket for making yourself a bullseye with the high-tech crowd.  And for the most part, they are right:  more educated, more time with defense contractors, degrees in physics or engineering.  Furthermore, why bother testing something that has been disproved before?  Have a good belly-laugh then get back to the real tasks, like robots, electronic insects or drones.

But this is where the dreaded empiricism steps in.  Like all science, it demands an author publish methodology for others to duplicate - and maybe find out you're wrong.  But then again, the skeptics may be wrong too.  Here's the link for the interested:


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