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Foreword

Foreword

To name something is to begin to understand it.

My five-year-old son, like many children, enjoys looking at clouds. A few weeks ago, he clued into the fact that different kinds of clouds had different names. And so, being of good geek stock, he proceeded to memorize them—cirrus, cumulus, stratus, cirrostratus, cumulonimbus, altostratus, lenticular; all of the ones I knew, and then some. I’d certainly never heard of “cumulus congestus” before.

Now, when he looks at the sky, he can tell me which clouds are which. More than that, he notices more than he did before, and with greater nuance. He has learned to visually discriminate among cloud types based on texture, color, height, movement, and who knows what else. (They’re not always easy to tell apart, of course, but that doesn’t bother him.) He can predict, with some accuracy, which ones might drop rain on us and which won’t.


  

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