Soft science assistance

Adams reviewers 2
A visual of the hard science reviewers sought out by American soft science historian Henry Adams in 1908 to 1909 to get an "annihilating" review by a "competent hand", in the physicochemical thermodynamical sciences, for his Gibbs-based chemical thermodynamic phase rule (see: social phase) model of historical change. His “The Rule of Phase Applied to History” manuscript was pin-balled around through: Wilder Bancroft, Arthur Webster, Carl Barus, Edgar Buckingham, before finding a competent reviewer in the mind of Gibbs' student Henry Bumstead. Adams' letters on this matter being the very epitome of a soft science assistance request, i.e., to paraphrase Adams: "I'm and idiot", when it comes to physics, and I need someone to "teach me" the correct "theory and expression" in the hard sciences.
In hmolscience, soft science assistance refers to rarely-made open calls by soft science field practitioners, e.g. historians, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc., for help, guidance, reality-checking, theory proofing, and or direction, etc., from hard science scholars, namely: physicists, physico-chemists, chemical thermodynamicists, chemical engineers, etc.

In 1908, American historian Henry Adams began looking for hard science consultants to give him guidance, review and feedback on his Gibbs-based physico-chemical social dynamics model of historical change; the following are representative quotes:

“I’m looking for a ‘young and innocent physico-chemist who wants to earn a few dollars by teaching an idiot what is the first element of theory and expression in physics.’”
— Henry Adams (1908), “Note to John Jameson”, Dec [2]

“What I want is a scientific, physico-chemical, proof-reader, and I am willing to pay liberally for the job. I hunger for annihilation by a competent hand. Ordinary sensations or speculations have no interest to anyone after seventy years old. We must have red pepper and whiskey and lots of it. As for the critic, it is indifferent to me whether he knows the authorship or not. You can treat the paper like any other that is offered you. I don’t care if you burn it, if only I get the criticism I want.”
— Henry Adams (1909), “Letter to John Jameson”, Mar [6]

In 1908, Adams eventually penned out an essay of his ideas entitled “The Rule of Phase Applied to History”, which he sent to historian John Jameson (1859-1937) (Ѻ) for publication in The American Historical Review (Ѻ). Jameson, however, turned down Adams' essay submission for publication, but in its place aided Adams in helping him find a reviewer.

Jameson tried professors physicist-engineer Carl Barus (1856-1935) (Ѻ) of Brown University, physical chemist Wilder Bancroft of Cornell University, physicist Arthur Webster (1863-1923) (Ѻ) of Clark University, the founder (1899) and president of the American Physical Society, and thermodynamicist Edgar Buckingham of the National Bureau of Standards, with varying negative results. [6]

Buckingham, of curious note, received the manuscript, in handwritten form, but complained of its illegibility, in spite of the fact, according to Adamsian scholar Harold Cater (1947), that Adams was well known for his legible hand. Buckingham requested a typed copy, and, after that was furnished, would agree to write a criticism for two hundred dollars, the equivalent of $5,500 dollars (Ѻ) in 2016 terms.

The typed manuscript eventually found its way into the hands of American physicist Henry Bumstead of Yale, a former student of Willard Gibbs, who had recently finished co-editing the posthumous edition of Gibbs’ scientific papers in 1906. Bumstead agreed to the job and by Jan 1910 produced a ‘meticulously detailed critique’ of Adams’ essay, in the form of a twenty-seven page commentary on Adams' “The Rule of Phase Applied to History”. [8] A copy of the Bumstead review might be available at papers (Ѻ) on Adams.

Adams would later comment that he wished he could have discussed his social dynamics theories with William Thomson:

“I have been studying science for ten years past, with keen interest, noting down my phrases of mind each year; and every new scientific method I try, shortens my view of the future. The last—thermodynamics—fetches me out on sea-level within ten years. I’m sorry Lord Kelvin is dead. I would travel a few thousand-million miles to discuss with him the thermodynamics of socialistic society. His law is awful in its rigidity and intensity of result.”
— Henry Adams (1909), “Letter to Charles Gaskell” (May 2) [3]

Cater, in his Henry Adams and His Friends (pg. 650) elaborates on this hard science “proof reader” search in more. [7]

Issues | Intellectual vanity
Henry Adams is a rare occurrence of this sort of open. More often than not, as evidenced by the commentaries of John Q. Stewart and his social physics attempt at Princeton scenario, there seems to be a sort of intellectual vanity that hinders the rarely made Bumstead-Adams type of connection. This brings to mind the anecdote of how as a kindergartner Puerto Rican child prodigy Luis Arroyo was scolded, owing to the intellectual insecurities of his teachers, for asking what a “diphthong” (Ѻ) was and asked to leave the room: [6]

“I remember in kindergarten, I asked a teacher what were ‘diphthongs’, because the index of the book said some diphthongs and it sounded weird. I asked what it was and they scolded me, told me I did not have to ask that, that was for later. They often threw me out of the room.”

This is equivalent to dialogue that tends to take place between the physical and or chemical scientist and the humanities scholars, who, each tending to be ingrained with insecurities about the other’s field, after a few scoldings and heated interactions, resultantly ‘throw each other out of the room’ of continued dialogue.

A prime modern tragic comedy example is American neurological anthropologist Terrence Deacon, who as head of the anthropology department at the University of California, Berkeley, the world’s leading chemical thermodynamics school, historically speaking, failed to get peer review, from his own neighboring colleagues in the chemical engineering department, for his thermodynamics-attempting 2011 book Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter; the dismal results of which brought to light in the Juarrero-Deacon affair. [9]

In 2013, Romanian economist Gheorghe Savoiu, in interview dialogue with Libb Thims, explained that, in respect to developing econophysics or sociophysics theory, he has go to his colleague physicist Ion Siman for guidance and fact check on physical permissibility of new theories; and that in no way is this interactive role reversed. [1]

The following are related quotes:

“While it was long possible and sometimes tempting for physicists to deny the usefulness of the molecular hypothesis, we economists have the good luck of being some of the ‘molecules’ of economic life ourselves, and of having the possibility through human contacts to study the behavior of other ‘molecules’. If we will be more forthcoming with explanations of our cherished terms, our science colleagues may be more inclined to help us with ‘entropy’, which to me is a more difficult concept than anything economics has to offer.”
Tjalling Koopmans (1947/1979) [4]

“The basic models of economics are unable to advance in any perceptible way a systematic understanding of the operation of a real economic system. Instead they are based on sets of more or less plausible but entirely arbitrary assumptions leading to precisely stated but irrelevant theoretical conclusions. I ask others in demography, sociology, political science, ecology, biology, health sciences and engineering to assist in removing economics from the splendid isolation in which it is found.”
Wassily Leontief (1982), “Academic Economics”; cited by Charles Hall and Kent Klitgaard (2006) as platform for newly proposed “biophysically” based field of economics (see: biophysical economics) [5]

1. Thims, Libb. (2013). “Interview of Gheorghe Savoiu on the formation of the Romanian econophysics school”, Pitesti, Romania, Jun 28-30.
2. Samuels, Ernest. (1989). Henry Adams (human molecule, pg. 115; physico-chemical, pgs. 401, 411; “Note to John Jameson”, pg. 409). Harvard University Press.
3. (a) Adams, Henry. (1909). “Letter to Charles Milnes Gaskell”, May 02.
(b) Adams, Henry, Samuels, Ernest. (1992). Henry Adams, Selected Letters (thermodynamics, pgs. 438, 466, 517). Harvard University Press.
4. (a) Koopmans, Tjalling C. (1979). Scientific Papers of Tjalling C. Koopmans (“molecules of economic life”, pg. 150), Volume 1. Springer-Verlag.
(b) Faber, Malte M., Niemes, Horst, and Stephan, Gunter. (2005). Entropy, Environment, and Resources: an Essay in Physico-economics (ch. 3: The Notion of Entropy, quote pg. 77). Springer.
5. (a) Leontief, Wassily. (1982). “Academic Economics” (abs), Science, 217:104-107.
(b) Hall, Charles A.S. and Klitgaard, Kent A. (2006). “The Need for a New Biophysically-based Paradigm in Economics for the Second Half of the Age of Oil” (pdf), International Journal of Transdisciplinary Research, 1(1):4-22.
6. Adams, Henry. (1982). Letters of Henry Adams, Volume VI: 1906-1918 (editors: J.C. Levenson, Ernest Samuels, Charles Vandersee, and Viola Winner) (pg. 241). Belknap Press.
7. Cater, Harold. (1947). Henry Adams and His Friends: a Collection of His Unpublished Letters (Bumstead, pg. 650). Houghton Mifflin Co.
8. Samuels, Ernest. (1989). Henry Adams (physico-chemical, pgs. 401; Jameson, pg. 411). Harvard University Press.
9. Thims, Libb. (2013). “Juarrero, Deacon, Nonreductive Physical Materialism, and Chemical Teleology” (pdf) (peer), Journal of Human Thermodynamics (url), 9(6): 77-122, Jun.

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