Welcome to Dartmouth's most influential daily
Each day, Dartblog and its team of alumni and students bring you news and commentary from Hanover and the world at large. Read our iPhone edition here.
This is an archived post. Please click here to see the latest entries.
Poor Writing Memorialized in Bronze
Dartmo.com, a blog that posts on the College’s buildings and their design, reports that a new plaque has been attached to the wall of Wilder Laboratory. Writer Scott Meacham ‘95 strongly criticizes the quality of the memorial’s syntax and punctuation. He’s right. Such writing would have gotten the author’s (committee of authors’?) knuckles rapped in a more rigorous time.
At this site, the Wilder Physical Laboratory, Dartmouth College, from 1900 to 1903 E.F. Nichols and G.F. Hull performed the first precise measurement of the radiation pressure of light on a macroscopic body, as predicted by J.C. Maxwell in 1873. The Nichols-Hull experiment provided convincing evidence for the pressure of light, and the transfer of momentum between light and matter, a phenomenon which has enabled critical developments in a wide range of fields from atomic physics to biology to astrophysics.
AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY
Pretty grim prose, don’t you think? Actually, it’s pretty grim thinking. And embarrassing to boot. See Dartmo’s textual analysis for yourself.
Addendum: Dartmo’s Scott Meacham has always seemed to me to be an “our administration can do no wrong” kind of guy. However, I guess that there are some things that even a loyalist cannot stomach.
Addendum: An alumnus with a deeper knowledge of science than my own writes in to comment on the plaque’s substance as well as its form:
Regarding your blog entry — ‘Poor Writing Memorialized in Bronze’ — it really is very bad prose, but the authors of Dartmo don’t pinpoint what seem to me its two worst faults. (I send this to you rather than to them, since their ‘Response’ window requires a password.) First, a layman can’t see what Maxwell predicted. Did he predict the experiment? Or the fact that light exerts pressure? Or the fact that such pressure can be precisely measured? Or the exact measurements? Or all four things? (No doubt a scientist would know, but the plaque shouldn’t be just for scientists.) Second, one can’t see what “a phenomenon” refers to. As Dartmo’s writers point out, one doesn’t know whether “the pressure of light and the transfer of momentum” are one phenomenon or two — but the problem is not (as they seem to think) merely one of punctuation!
At a Dartmouth web page, one seems to get an answer to the first question. There, too, the prose is bad (perhaps written by the same semi-literate scientist?):
The published papers [Nichols, E. F., and Hull, G. F., A preliminary communication on the pressure of heat and light radiation, Phys. Rev. 13, 307 (1901); The Pressure Due to Radiation. (Second Paper.), Phys. Rev. 17, 26 (1903)] reveal the incredible experimental acumen of Nichols and Hull. The final results agreed with Maxwell’s theory to better than one percent.
That’s execrably written! — but it “seems” to mean that Maxwell did, indeed, almost exactly predict the pressure.
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
August 23, 2009
Fare Thee Well, Tom Crady
And now Dean Tom Crady has precipitously announced his departure from the College after only 20 months on the job. How to read this? By way of background, prior to coming to Dartmouth, Crady had…
May 31, 2009
Kangaroo Court, Indeed
In an interview with The Dartmouth, alumni-elected trustee T.J. Rodgers ‘70 explained his reasons for declining to participate in future evaluations of trustees up for “re-election,” namely the “kangaroo court” nature of such discussion in…