The thing about facts

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Yesterday I suggested facts aren't always facts. Many 'facts' are relevant only to the times and our ignorance. Some facts you'll recognize as coming from ignorance: the earth is the center of the universe, it is flat, it is round. I am reminded of one rather fascinating 'fact' that was universally accepted until just a few hundred years ago. The theory of phlogiston, sometimes referred to as the 5th element (sounds like a Bruce Willis movie). "The theory of phlogiston dates to 1667 when Johann Joachim Becher (a German physicist) suggested that there was a fifth element (phlogiston) to go with the four classical elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire) which was contained within objects that could burn. It was believed that when an object burned, it released its phlogiston (an element without taste, mass, odor or color) and left behind a powdery substance called calx (what we now know to be oxide). Objects that burned in air were considered to be rich in phlogiston and the fact that a fire burned out when oxygen was removed was seen as proof that oxygen could only absorb a limited amount of the substance. This theory also led to the idea that the human need to breathe had a sole function which was to remove phlogiston from the body. The entire concept was superseded by Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier’s discovery that combustion could only occur with the help of a gas such as oxygen." What fascinates me about this idea of a fifth element is how obvious it must have been that this existed. Based purely on observation of something like fire and its after effects, it's painfully clear how one might come to this very conclusion, in the absence of real knowledge. And so it is with what we observe in our own world of audio. We hear and observe many things, some explainable others not so much. It's not good to assign the label 'fact' to explain the reason something sounds the way it does unless we actually have such verifiable, repeatable facts. Better to say "it's a fact I hear what I hear, I observe what I observe." That's hard to argue with.
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Paul McGowan

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