Posts Tagged ‘Undiscovery’

“Undiscovery” is the discovery that something “discovered” was not

October 18, 2014

Some Saturday trivia.

A “discovery” is an observation of something new, something (animal, mineral or abstract) which had not been observed before.

But what is an “undiscovery”?

Something “undiscovered” is “undetected”. It may or may not exist. If it does not exist it is something which is “undiscoverable” and always will be until it exists – if ever. But something which exists may also be “undiscoverable” with available techniques of observation but that is not to say that it will always be “undiscovered”.

With a “discovery” it is always implied that the “discovery” is subject to the limits of observation available at the time of the “discovery”. “Scientific discovery” is very rarely just observations and in these days requires much interpretation of the observations. The interpretation – in turn – is subject to the limits of knowledge and language and philosophy available (where I take mathematics to be another language and concepts of the cosmos or the micro-cosmos as philosophies). A “discovery” is not necessarily for ever. A “discovery” may be of something transient as of a state which exists for a period of time and then does not. A “discovery” could be a false claim or in error, in which case the supposed “discovery” was no discovery after all.

The “discovery” of an error is just another “discovery”.  Does that make the “supposed discovery” an “undiscovery”? When, in 2012,  it was discovered that Sandy Island in the Coral Sea and shown on many maps, did not exist and had not existed, it was described as the “undiscovery of Sandy Island”.

Which begs the question whether the discovery of something thought to exist, but which does not exist, could be an “undiscovery”?

As in the past with the undiscovery of the Sun’s motion around the Earth, or the undiscovery of phlogiston, or the undiscovery of the aether.

And as we are currently discovering, the undiscovery of man-made global warming, the undiscoveries of the catastrophic dinosaur or Neanderthal extinctions and the undiscovery of the ozone hole.

And yet to come is the possible discoveries of the  undiscoveries of the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy and the graviton.

“Undiscovery” of Sandy Island in the Coral Sea – or “Now you see it, now you don’t”

November 22, 2012

There are no good antonyms in English for the verb “discover”. In this particular case where an island was apparently “discovered” a long time ago, which was then included on many maps and which is now found not to exist, such words as “loss” or “concealment” or “miss” or “cover up” don’t quite fit.

But in this age of satellite imagery and GPS it is more than a little surprising that such an “error” – if error it was – could survive for so long!

I suspect that a clever hoaxer  – once upon a time – invented the island, introduced it into some reference map and is now laughing his socks off !!!!

So an “undiscovery” it is.

BBC reports:

A South Pacific island, shown on marine charts and world maps as well as on Google Earth and Google Maps, does not exist, Australian scientists say.

The supposedly sizeable strip of land, named Sandy Island on Google maps, was positioned midway between Australia and French-governed New Caledonia.

Sandy Island – “Now you see it now you don’t” image BBC/Google

But when scientists from the University of Sydney went to the area, they found only the blue ocean of the Coral Sea.

The phantom island has featured in publications for at least a decade.

Scientist Maria Seton, who was on the ship, said that the team was expecting land, not 1,400m (4,620ft) of deep ocean.

“We wanted to check it out because the navigation charts on board the ship showed a water depth of 1,400m in that area – very deep,” Dr Seton, from the University of Sydney, told the AFP news agency after the 25-day voyage.

“It’s on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We’re really puzzled. It’s quite bizarre. ……

…… Australia’s Hydrographic Service, which produces the country’s nautical charts, says its appearance on some scientific maps and Google Earth could just be the result of human error, repeated down the years.

A spokesman from the service told Australian newspapers that while some map makers intentionally include phantom streets to prevent copyright infringements, that was was not usually the case with nautical charts because it would reduce confidence in them. ….  ….. while most explorers dream of discovering uncharted territory, the Australian team appears to have done the opposite – and cartographers everywhere are now rushing to undiscover Sandy Island for ever.


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