I spent part of today preparing for a talk for I'm giving at Drexel on Wednesday, for their E-Learning Lecture Series. Jean-Claude Bradley (whose lecture is linked to the posts on chirality) is my host. He's been constructing on-line courses in chemistry, that are also taught in real-time. By the end of term, most of the students are not present in the classroom, but are invisible in some sense to the lecturer. The web allows us to construct an invisible university, where neither chronological nor spatial constraints apply to the community of scholars.
This is nothing new. In the 17th centure, Robert Boyle, whose name we associate with the inverse relationship between pressure and volume, was part of an institutuion known as the Invisible College. The Invisible College was group of natural philosophers working in England, which Boyle joined in the 1650s. This group eventually became the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, still operating nearly 400 years later.
Interesting tidbits about Boyle: He identified himself as an alchemist and believed that base metals (such as iron) could be "transmuted" into more precious metals such as gold. The study of the properties of gases is the precursor of "scientific chemistry", and was an active field in the 17th century (think balloons!). Even though general chemistry books refer to Boyle's Law, it is also attributed in some texts (principally in Europe) to Mariotte. Boyle authored The Skeptical Chemist, where he encouraged experimentation and observation, and Some Considerations Touching the Usefulnesse of Experimental Natural Philosophy, where he strongly supported the teaching of experimental science in schools (if you don't enjoy lab, blame Boyle).
Kurt Gödel's Open World
1 day ago in The Curious Wavefunction