[FPSPACE] Fwd: [HASTRO-L] Astronomy history via ADS full text statistics?

LARRY KLAES ljk4 at msn.com
Tue Jan 1 12:14:19 EST 2013

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-----Original Message-----
From: dfischer at ASTRO.UNI-BONN.DE
Sent: 1/1/2013 3:24:07 PM
To: HASTRO-L at listserv.wvu.edu
Subject: [HASTRO-L] Astronomy history via ADS full text statistics?
The three-part article on Martian canals in the astronomical literature


is probably more interesting for its methodology than for its conclusions
(which, after so many graphs and words, is simply that there was
"lingering interest" in Martian canals for decades after Antoniadi
seemingly closed the issue in 1909) - is this a valid approach to
"data-mine" vast amounts of literature? There is *no* way to find out
whether an article represents an original study pro or contra the
existence of the canals or is simply a historical review!

Incidentally if you run "Martian canals" through
http://books.google.com/ngrams/ - which some historians *are* promoting as
a new great tool to figure out the popularity of certain terms over time -
you get basically the same graph: nothing at all before the 1880's, a peak
around 1908 - and "lingering interest" til today, with a modest second
peak around 1960. All that in about 2 seconds ...


P.S.: Here's something else to ponder re. methods - the "small step"
affair. Neil Armstrong always contended - including in his authorized
biography - that he came up with his famous words between touchdown and
stepping out of the LEM. Yet now his brother has claimed in an interview -
see e.g.
- that he was shown the line by Neil on a piece of paper before Apollo 11
even left Earth. Not that this has any impact on the history of space
research but it throws some light on the value of oral history. Figuring
out which light is left as an exercise to the reader ...
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