Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Notes on Madam How and Lady Why: Ch. 1 The Glen

Scientists, if they are doing their jobs, are constantly refining their theories. As a result, science books tend to go out-of-date fairly quickly.

Charles Kingsley's book of natural history, Madam How and Lady Why, is kind of an exception in my opinion. Some of his geological ideas are now obsolete, but his philosophy of science still provides insight today.

I have been fascinated with Madam How and Lady Why since Aravis and I first read it six years ago. I often find myself thinking about Kingsley's way of looking at science as I read things in the news and in other books.

I wanted to read the book with Mariel and Cornflower this year, but also wanted to avoid having to wade through out-of-date portions with the kids, so I went through the book taking notes and finding supplementary information online. For the next few days I will post my (by no means exhaustive) notes on the first four chapters, in the hope that it will help someone else who wants to use the book. My plans is to accomplish the notes for the second four chapters before Thanksgiving, and the notes for the third four chapters by New Year's.

My thanks to Cindy Gould and Ambleside Online for providing some of the links. I apologize in advance for listing the entire web address for links rather than embedding them. These are rough notes.

Ch. 1 The Glen

 Winter on a moor east of London in England (Windsor-to-Aldershot-to-Hartford-Bridge-Flats-- see p. 17-- is east of London according to Google Maps).

 Mountains and Hills of England with topographical map: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountains_and_hills_of_England
Our interest is just inside Area 12, North Downs, in the county of Surrey.

 P. 5 The difference between How and Why

 P. 6 Madam How is at work making and remaking natural things. Kingsley has personified the concept of how nature works, and attributes everything that is done in nature to this “fairy”, which he calls “The Housekeeper of the Whole Universe”. Madam How is employed by another fairy, Lady Why, who represents Wisdom, and both are under the authority of another Master, whom we can assume is God.

 P. 6 Using his fairy terms, he discusses the Butterfly Effect—an idea put forth in Chaos Theory that “small differences in the initial conditions of a dynamic system may produce large variations in the long-term behavior of the system.” (Wikipedia)

 P. 6 Everything eventually reduces to its elements, which Madam How uses to make something else.

 Glen: a narrow and deep mountain valley (Free Online Dictionary) Glens are similar to what we call canyons here in the Western United States.

 P. 14 He talks about water erosion.

 P. 17 Heath, fern

 P. 18-19 Bournemouth Chines: Bournemouth is on the south coast of England; a chine is “a steep-sided river valley where the river flows through coastal cliffs to the sea.” (Wikipedia)

 A beautiful picture of a chine on the Isle of Wight, southeast of Bournemouth:

 A great photo of a sandstone cliff in Bournemouth: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/jpg-Bournemouth/4BM-Branksome-Sand-Canford.jpg

 P. 20 brief allusion to the Ice Age

 A glen in Scotland that was formed by a glacier:

 The same glen in winter:

 Another glen with interesting conical mounds and a towering tableland: http://www.scotland-flavour.co.uk/fairy-glen.html http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/United_Kingdom/Scotland/Western_Isles/Uig/photo192105.htm

 A webpage on an area of glens in the UK: http://www.angus.gov.uk/history/features/glens.htm

 P. 22 Figure out the answers to your questions with experimentation and observation.

 P. 22 He mentions Madam How “lifting Hartford Bridge Flats”, but does not
say how it was done. He will address this later.

 P. 23 He suggests an experiment: start with a flat area of clay, top it with a layer of sand, then ‘rain’ on it with a watering can, and see what forms. Then try different soils, or put the clay on top of the sand.

 Clay, chalk, limestone, slate—these are all different kinds of rock, or soil. Water erodes these as well.

 P. 25 “…such a chasm…” a set of pictures of Avon Gorge in Bristol with the River Avon running through it): http://www.yourlocalweb.co.uk/city-of-bristol/pictures/page3/

 P. 25 The Matterhorn, Weisshorn, Pic du Midi (pics easily found online)

1 comment:

Kristine said...

Thank you! We are just starting this book, and I had been meaning to look some of these things up, like Chines. What gorgeous pictures of the glens.
I think this is one of those books that will stay with me as well. I was hooked when I read the introduction. Looking forward to your updates!