Декабрь 2019 — Заметка №18

Оказывается в 16 веке было общепринятое мнение, что точно измерить температуру человека, свести ее к одному числу и использовать его для принятия решения невозможно: температура человека слишком сложная штука, а термометры были слишком неточными.

People were aware of variations in temperature long before there were any objective measurements of temperature. Judgments of temperature are imperfectly correlated among different persons, or even the same person at different times, depending on the humidity, the person’s activity level and age, surrounding air currents, and so on. The idea that anything as subtle and complex as all the manifestations of changes in temperature could be measured and quantified on a single numerical scale was scoffed at as impossible, even by the leading philosophers of the sixteenth century.

The first thermometer invented by Galileo in 1592 did not go far in dispelling the notion that temperature was inherently unmeasurable, because the earliest thermometers, for about their first hundred years, were so imperfect as to make it possible for those who wished to do so to argue that no one could ever succeed in measuring temperature. Temperature was then confounded with all the subtleties of subjective judgment, which easily seem incompatible with a single numerical scale of measurement. How could the height of a column of mercury in a glass tube possibly reflect the rich varieties of temperature—damp cold, dank cold, frosty cold, crisp cold, humid heat, searing heat, scalding heat, dry heat, feverish heat, prickly heat, and so on?

The early thermometers were inconsistent, both with themselves and with each other. Because they consisted of open-ended glass tubes, they were sensitive to changes in barometric pressure as well as to temperature. And there were problems of calibration, such as where to locate the zero point and how to divide the column of mercury into units. It was believed, incorrectly, that all caves had the same temperature, so thermometers were calibrated in caves. The freezing and boiling points of water were also used in calibration, but, as these vary with impurities in the water and the barometric pressure, the calibration of different thermometers at different times and places resulted in thermometers that failed to correlate perfectly with one another in any given instance. They lacked reliability, as we now would say.

Сейчас же: супер-привычная и ожидаемая штука: упрощение сложного, но упрощение, которое позволяет принимать решения.