[Paleopsych] Wiki: Lewis Fry Richardson

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Lewis Fry Richardson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Lewis Fry Richardson (October 11, 1881 - September 30, 1953) was a
    mathematician, physicist and psychologist. One of seven children, he
    was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, into a well-off, merchant
    Quaker family, and was the son of Catherine Fry and David Richardson.


      * 1 Education and early working life
      * 2 Pacifism
      * 3 Weather forecasting
      * 4 Mathematical analysis of war
      * 5 Research on the length of coastlines and borders
      * 6 Lewis Fry Richardson Medal
      * 7 References

Education and early working life

    He entered Bootham School in York in 1894 and fell under the dual
    influences of pacifist Quaker beliefs and, under master J. Edmund
    Clark, science, in particular, meteorology. In 1898 he attended Durham
    College of Science, to study mathematics, physics, chemistry, zoology
    and botany, before graduating from King's College, Cambridge with a
    first-class degree in the Natural Science Tripos in 1903.

    Richardson's working life reflected his eclectic interests:
      * National Physical Laboratory (1903-1904, 1907-1909)
      * University College Aberystwyth (1905-1906)
      * National Peat Industries (1906-1907) - as a chemist
      * Sunbeam Lamp Company (1909-1912) - as manager of the physical and
        chemical laboratory
      * Manchester College of Technology (1912-1913)
      * Meteorological Office (1913-1916) - as superintendent of
        Eskdalemuir Observatory
      * Friends Ambulance Unit in France between 1916 and 1919
      * Works at the Meteorological Office at Benson, Oxfordshire between
        1919 and 1920.
      * In 1920 is made Head of the Physics Department at Westminster
        Training College.
      * Between 1929 and 1940 is principal of the Paisley Technical
        College, now the University of Paisley.


    Richardson's Quaker beliefs entailed an ardent pacifism that exempted
    him from military service during World War I as a conscientious
    objector though this subsequently disqualified him from holding any
    academic post. Richardson worked from 1916 to 1919 for the Friends'
    Ambulance Service attached to the 16th French Infantry Division. After
    the war, he rejoined the Meteorological Office but was compelled to
    resign on grounds of conscience when it was amalgamated into the Air
    Ministry in 1920. He subsequently pursued a career on the fringes of
    the academic world before retiring in 1940 to research his own ideas.

Weather forecasting

    Richardson's interest in meteorology led him to propose a scheme for
    weather forecasting by solution of differential equations, the method
    used today, though, when he published Weather Prediction by Numerical
    Process in 1922, suitable fast computing was unavailable. He, somewhat
    eccentrically, envisaged bands of messengers on motor-cycles cruising
    the Royal Albert Hall to communicate arithmetical results between
    banks of clerks in order to obtain the necessary numerical solutions.
    He was also interested in atmospheric turbulence and performed many
    terrestrial experiments. The Richardson number, a dimensionless
    parameter in the theory of turbulence is named after him. He famously
    summarised the field in the parody:

           Big whorls have little whorls that feed on their velocity,
           and little whorls have smaller whorls and so on to viscosity.

Mathematical analysis of war

    Richardson also attempted to apply his mathematical skills in the
    service of his pacifist principles, in particular in understanding the
    roots of international conflict. As he had done with weather, he
    analyzed war using differential equations. Considering the armament of
    two nations, Richardson posited an idealized system of equations
    whereby the rate of a nation's armament build-up is directly
    proportional to the amount of arms its rival has and also to the
    grievances felt toward the rival, and negatively proportional to the
    amount of arms it already has itself. Solution of this system of
    equations allows insightful conclusions to be drawn regarding the
    nature, and the stability or instability, of various hypothetical
    conditions which might obtain between nations.

    He also originated the theory that the propensity for war between two
    nations was a function of the length of their common border. And in
    Arms and Insecurity (1949), and Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (1950),
    he sought to statistically analyze the causes of war. Factors he
    assessed included economics, language, and religion. In the preface of
    the latter, he wrote: "There is in the world a great deal of
    brilliant, witty political discussion which leads to no settled
    convictions. My aim has been different: namely to examine a few
    notions by quantitative techniques in the hope of reaching a reliable

Research on the length of coastlines and borders

    While studying the causes of war between two countries, Richardson
    decided to search for a relation between the probability of two
    countries going to war and the length of their common border. While
    collecting data, he realised that there was considerable variation in
    the various gazetted lengths of international borders. For example,
    that between Spain and Portugal was variously quoted as 987 or 1214 km
    while that between The Netherlands and Belgium as 380 or 449 km.

    As part of his research, Richardson investigated how the measured
    length of a border changes as the unit of measurement is changed. He
    published empirical statistics which led to a conjectured
    relationship. This research was quoted by mathematician Benoît
    Mandelbrot in his 1967 paper How Long Is the Coast of Britain?.

    Suppose the coast of Britain is measured using a 200 km ruler,
    specifying that both ends of the ruler must touch the coast. Now cut
    the ruler in half and repeat the measurement, then repeat again:

    Notice that the smaller the ruler, the bigger the result. It might be
    supposed that these values would converge to a finite number
    representing the "true" length of the coastline. However, Richardson
    demonstrated that the measured length of coastlines and other natural
    features appears to increase without limit as the unit of measurement
    is made smaller.

    Note that Richardson's results do not mean that the coastline of
    Britain is actually infinitely long. This would require the ability to
    measure with infinitesimally small rulers, something which quantum
    physics says cannot be done, as there is a lower limit to the
    smallness of a measurement, the Planck length. What Richardson's
    results do show is that natural geographic features, when considered
    over a wide range of scales, do not behave in the same way as the
    objects of Euclidean geometry.

    At the time, Richardson's research was ignored by the scientific
    community. Today, it is seen as one element in the birth of the modern
    study of fractals.

    Richardson died in Kilmun, Argyll, Scotland.

Lewis Fry Richardson Medal

    This is a medal awarded (since 1997) by the European Geophysical
    Society. http://www.copernicus.org/EGU/egs/award6s.htm


    Richardson, Lewis Fry, "Generalized foreign politics," The British
    Journal of Psychology, monograph supplement #23, 1939.

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