Other PicoMicroYacht

Sunday, 22 April 2018

PicoMicroYacht, Cosmology and Winnie the Pooh

PicoMicoYacht, Cosmology and Winnie the Pooh ....
 It might be hard to see how these three things are related, but there is a link.

PicoMicroYacht was now left behind on the River Wey and I was attempting to trace London's Lost Route to the Sea by exploring what remained of the Wey and Arun canal.
In places I could see the canal was just  scrub land and bushes. Here a railway bridge crosses the canal route as I walked onward.

In other places the water filled the canal and enthusiasts were keeping the banks clear, with coppicing woodlands to the right.

As I looked on the map I could see that close to the old canal a small river would come and go, this called the 'Bramley Waters.' I knew that soon I would visit a place where an old track branched off and the path took you over a small wooden bridge, crossing the river and leading to a place called Shamley Green.

The location of the bridge over the Bramley Waters, close to Shamley Green where Ernest Shepard lived.
As I pondered this route beforehand I realised that it was in Shamley Green that that Ernest Shepard had lived, the illustrator of the world famous Winnie the Pooh stories. 

The 2017 film 'Goodbye Christopher Robin' explores the relationship between A A Milne and his son, who was the real 'Christopher Robin'

I  contemplated whether Shepard had been inspired by the small river and the old canal. Alternatively, he had just based his drawings on his visit to Ashdown Forest, the setting for Winnie the Pooh. 
My intuition was that he would have been influenced by the countryside he knew and loved, by Shamley Green.

Ernest Shepard - he illustrated for 'Winnie the Pooh' and also 'The Wind in the Willows' (note the different spelling used by some)

There was a way test this out. I decided to inspect some of the drawings, in particular of the bridge used for 'Pooh Sticks' by the characters in the stories.

Looking at these drawings I realised that the base of the bridge, in the imagination of Shepard, definitely had bricks. 

Winnie the Pooh and Rabbit doing Pooh Sticks, the bridge supported by bricks

However, photographs of the Ashdown Forest Pooh Stick Bridge showed only stones, with no bricks.

Adults contemplating 'pooh sticks' in Ashdown Forest

So was the bridge that Shephard had been thinking of a different one from that in Ashdown forest, and even the one over the Bramley Waters, near Shamley Green?

I now had a prediction; if I took that track from the old canal, I could get to the bridge over the Bramley Waters and see whether it had a brick base or stone.

If  Ernest Shepard had been inspired by Shamley Green then there would be bricks supporting the bridge along my path

So what is the link with cosmology? I work in a university and have enjoyed the writings of Karl Popper, who sketched out the philosophical basis for scientific enquiry, including in his book 'Conjectures and Refutations.' He believed that scientific theories had to be open to scrutiny and 'falsification.' A scientific theory could never by proven but could be falsified and this attempt should be done by decisive experiments. 

Karl Popper

His main illustrative example is a decisive observational experiment conducted in 1919, testing Einstein's general theory of relativity. According to this theory, light is bent by the gravitational attraction of massive cosmological structures by twice the amount predicted by Newtonian theory. A way to test this was to determine the degree of deviation of light as it passed proximal to the sun, the light coming from stars. 
There was one snag, however; light from stars was insufficiently bright when looking towards the sun. The solution was to find a good eclipse. This is what the Greenwich astronomer, Arthur Eddington, did in 1919, travelling by expedition to an island off  the west coast of Africa. As he made his observations, it was clear that light was bent according to Einstein's prediction, this sensational result making Einstein an overnight celebrity.

Einstein and Eddington

Could I apply Karl Popper's falsification principle to understanding the illustrations of Winnie Pooh. It seemed as if this was possible. Since I did not know whether or not there were bricks supporting the Shamley Green bridge - I had a testable hypothesis. I could disprove my theory if there were no bricks. I set off down the track, leaving the canal behind. As I approached the bridge in anticipation I noticed certain things.

The bridge had obviously seen better days and was now supported by metal girders. Initially, I could not see any bricks and I began to doubt my theory. 
But as I moved around the bridge I realised that slabs of bricks that had fallen away from the base of the bridge, no longer needed because of the metal girders. The presence of large slabs of bricks confirmed, or at least did not falsify my theory, and my hypothesis had been proved correct.

Of course, critics of the theory could say there might have been bricks supporting the Ashdown forest bridge that were removed or that what appears as stone could in fact be very muddy bricks. They could say that this bridge type is relatively common and this is no big deal. 
But I now prefer to turn things around and say the onus is on those proposing the 'Ashdown Winnie the Pooh theory of influence' to develop testable hypotheses to prove their own theory.
Meanwhile I have another testable hypothesis that the bricks by the bridge date back to the time of Winnie the Pooh.

The comedy writer, Mark Evans, will teach you how to play Pooh Sticks if needed 

No comments:

Post a Comment