Archive for March, 2011

Cargo cult CSS resets

by George Paterson.

In my previous article cargo cult science and web development, i talked about Richard Feynman’s excellent announcement address on cargo cult science, referencing the cargo cults and how web development can suffer from cargo cult development.

I didn’t give a specific example at the time because the one i offer now is rather contentious and i didn’t want it to draw away from the understanding of cargo cult development.

CSS resets, as investigated by Eric Meyer and others, is a style sheet used by a developer to set a cross browser baseline style. It removes any styling that may be applied by the browser rendering the elements in to a controlled initial state. The principle is that the developer is now in full control of styling for all elements on the site.

Cargo cult science and web development

by George Paterson.

In 1974 Richard Feynman gave the commencement address at Caltech and coined the phrase cargo cult science. Cargo cult can be used to describe any process using a flawed model of causation.

The term cargo cult is used in anthropology to define the religious cults that spring up in the wake of a technologically advanced society interacting with a technologically primitive society. Most recently this happened during World War II in the Pacific South West when Allied and Japanese forces created military bases on islands with limited previous contact with the modern world. The military base would commonly use air fields to import war materials.

The technical details of why and how the air field is set up would be beyond the basic understanding of the local populace but they would be able to see the process and witness the outcome which would be bountiful supplies of cargo brought in from the sky.