Histories of kinematics and Einstein’s relativity theory: A collage of historiographies Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9532-6 Authors Giora Hon, Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa, 31905 Haifa, Israel Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Summary We offer a novel historical-philosophical framework for discussing experimental practice which we call ?Generating Experimental Knowledge?. It combines three different perspectives: experimental systems, concept formation, and the pivotal role of error. We then present an historical account of the invention of the Scanning Tunnelling Microscope (STM), or Raster-Tunnelmikroskop, and interpret it within the proposed framework. We show that at the outset of the STM project, Binnig and Rohrer?the inventors of the machine?filed two patent disclosures; the first is dated 22 (...) December 1978 (Switzerland), and the second, two years later, 12 September 1980 (US). By studying closely these patent disclosures, the attempts to realize them, and the subsequent development of the machine, we present, within the framework of generating experimental knowledge, a new account of the invention of the STM. While the realization of the STM was still a long way off, the patent disclosures served as blueprints, marking the changes that had to be introduced on the way from the initial idea to its realization. (shrink)
Descartes’s Cogito, “I am thinking, therefore I exist,” is perhaps the most famous assertion in the history of philosophy. Thirteen hundred years earlier, St. Augustine formulated a similar claim, arguing “if I am mistaken, I am.” Did St. Augustine anticipate Descartes? We show that Descartes’s dictum is a novel insight and less vulnerable to criticism than the claim of St. Augustine. Whereas Descartes searched for one true proposition on which he could base scientificknowledge, St. Augustine sought to refute the skeptics (...) who had denied the possibility of knowledge. By a twist of irony, the skeptics and St. Augustine reached contradictory (ethical) conclusions based, however, on similar reasoning. (shrink)
: This study of the concept of orbit is intended to throw light on the nature of revolutionary concepts in science. We observe that Kepler transformed theoretical astronomy that was understood in terms of orbs [Latin: orbes] (spherical shells to which the planets were attached) and models (called hypotheses at the time), by introducing a single term, orbit [Latin: orbita], that is, the path of a planet in space resulting from the action of physical causes expressed in laws of nature. (...) To demonstrate the claim that orbit is a revolutionary concept we pursue three lines of argument. First we trace the origin of the term; second, we document its development and specify the meaning of the novel term as it was introduced into astronomy by Kepler in his Astronomia nova (1609). Finally, in order to establish in what sense the concept is revolutionary, we pay attention to the enduring impact that the concept has had on the relevant sciences, in this case astronomy and indeed physics. We claim that orbit is an instance of a revolutionary concept whose provenance and use can provide the insights we are seeking. (shrink)
Can a theory turn back, as it were, upon itselfand vouch for its own features? That is, canthe derived elements of a theory be the veryprimitive terms that provide thepresuppositions of the theory? This form of anall-embracing feature assumes a totality inwhich there occurs quantification over thattotality, quantification that is defined bythis very totality. I argue that the Machprinciple exhibits such a feature ofall-embracing nature. To clarify the argument,I distinguish between on the one handcompleteness and on the other wholeness andtotality, (...) as different all-embracing features:the former being epistemic while the latter –ontological.I propose an analogy between the Mach principleas a possible selection principle in generalrelativity, and the vicious-circle principle infoundations of mathematics. I finally concludewith a consequence of this analogyvis-à-vis completeness and totality,viz., both should be constrained if they wereto be valid concepts for a physical theory. (shrink)
The question is raised as to the kind of methodology required to deal with foundational issues. A comparative study of the methodologies of Gödel and Einstein reveals some similar traits which reflect a concern with foundational problems. It is claimed that the interest in foundational problems stipulates a certain methodology, namely, the methodology of limiting cases.
Abstract One cannot discount experimental errors and turn the attention to the logicomathematical structure of a physical theory without distorting the nature of the scientific method. The occurrence of errors in experiments constitutes an inherent feature of the attempt to test theories in the physical world. This feature deserves proper attention which has been neglected. An attempt is made to address this problem.