Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ever wonder how polarizing materials were invented? Of course you have. But you probably never would have guessed this:
[Herapathite was discovered by] William Bird Herapath, a physician in Bristol, England, whose pupil, a Mr. Phelps, had found that when he dropped iodine into the urine of a dog that had been fed quinine, little scintillating green crystals formed in the reaction liquid. Phelps went to his teacher, and Herapath then did something which I think was curious under the circumstances; he looked at the crystals under a microscope and noticed that in some places they were light where they overlapped and in some places they were dark. He was shrewd enough to recognize that here was a remarkable phenomenon, a new polarizing material.
Source (PDF). Emphasis mine. Apparently, the modern manufacturing technique came about due to quinine shortages in WWII, though I'm unclear if dogs were still handling the processing at that point.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Brandon on Arguments from Evil and from Design.
...The two types of arguments make use of the same basic processes of reasoning and similar views of design as relatively obvious to spot if it's there; they just reach different conclusions because one says that this or that is obviously good enough that it has to be designed, and the other says that that or this is obviously bad enough that it couldn't possibly be designed. And both tend to be locked into the view that it is design or nothing.