Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Einstein and Midnight Corn Planting

From a Joel Achenbach report on neutrino detection experiments: he justifies basic science research by pointing out Einstein's relativity theories led to Minnesota farmers being able to plant corn at midnight using GPS.

Is that a stretch? Probably not--there's a nice book on Poincare (a French physicist who came close to the theory around the turn of the century--he was dealing with the problem of timing across zones--at the end of the 19th century they'd reached the point of technology where setting simultaneous time at two different points on the globe was impossible--the time it took for an electrical signal to cross the telegraph wire (moving at the speed of light) was that long, compared to the accuracy of the time pieces. That's not clear, I know, but search for Poincare in Amazon and you'll find the book. I'm feeling lazy today.)

Maybe planting corn at midnight is the reason our farmers surprised the crop estimators by getting the crop planted so fast. That and 60-acre per hour corn planters.


id said...

I checked on Amazon, but couldn't figure out which book you were - 'The Value of Science...' Perhaps?

Bill Harshaw said...

Sorry--today I'm more energetic and I've found the book I was referring to:

I'm surprised it only gets 3 stars in 23 Amazon reviews. It's apparently a case of different strokes for different folks.