JF Ptak Science Books Post 550
The issue of establishing scientific validity and fact through political and religious machinations, rumination, fascinations and condemnations has a grindingly used, odd history, and little of it comes to much of a good end. Usually it is just a bad idea, or a wronger-than-bad stinkingly non-idea; that, or something with a sickening wiff of eau de maison funeral perfumery. I’m not so sure about whether anyone has legislated that a point in space exists, or that non-Euclidean stuff is twisted, or that the world (as in “Earth”) began precisely at 11:11 am (?!) on the first day of the first week of the first month of the first year 4004 BCE. Biological matters have been taken more seriously in the legislature and courts, at least in my country, than stuff in physics and math—the meaning of death has more or less been legislated, while the whole issue of sustainable “human” life has been battered around for decades (with the last administration’s elephantine approach to things like stem cell research now just being lifted following eight years of abuse). Many examples begin to emerge when looking deeper into the history of science, especially with the influence of the churches, hammering evidently tender belief systems on top of scientific endeavors.
The issue with mathematics and the law seems mostly limited to weights and measures and time, which is logical; I’m not so sure about the more ethereal stuff, except for the very famous example of the Indiana pi debacle of 1897. It was in this that the solemn state legislature was nearly hoodwinked by an amateur semi-mathematician, crank and number cruncher named Edwin Goodwin, who persuaded the people who need to persuaded and had a bill* introduced in the Indiana General Assembly—it basically established that the value of pi be set at 3.2 t his makes not too much sense until you realize that the only good that could come of this tripe is to use it in one of a never ending series of attempts at squaring the circle.
The bill of course almost made it all the way through—it started life in the place where it should’ve ended, in the Committee on Swamp Lands, and then blazed its way through Education and eventually passed unanimously by the Indiana house. Had it not been for the serendipitous acuity of Purdue professor C.A. Waldo—who alerted the state senators about its humbug nature, where the bill was finally shuttled into its everlasting postponement….in the Committee on Temperance.
*A Bill for an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature of 1897.