With over 150 alphabetically arranged entries about key scientists, concepts, discoveries, technological innovations, and learned institutions, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy traces the history of physics and astronomy from the Renaissance to the present. For students, teachers, historians, scientists, and readers of popular science books such as Galileo's Daughter, this guide deciphers the methods and philosophies of physics and astronomy as well as the historical periods from which they emerged. Meant to serve the lay (...) reader and the professional alike, this book can be turned to for the answer to how scientists learned to measure the speed of light, or consulted for neat, careful summaries of topics as complicated as quantum field theory and as vast as the universe. The entries, each written by a noted scholar and edited by J. L. Heilbron, Professor of History and Vice Chancellor, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, reflect the most up-to-date research and discuss the applications of the scientific disciplines to the wider world of religion, law, war, art and literature. No other source on these two branches of science is as informative or as inviting. Thoroughly cross-referenced and accented by dozens of black and white illustrations, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy is the source to turn to for anyone looking for a quick explanation of alchemy, x-rays and any type of matter or energy in between. (shrink)
This history of physics focuses on the question, "How do bodies act on one another across space?" The variety of answers illustrates the function of fundamental analogies or models in physics as well as the role of so-called unobservable entities. Forces and Fields presents an in-depth look at the science of ancient Greece, and it examines the influence of antique philosophy on seventeenth-century thought. Additional topics embrace many elements of modern physics--the empirical basis of quantum mechanics, (...) wave-particle duality and the uncertainty principle, and the action-at-a-distance theory of Wheeler and Feynman. 1961 ed. (shrink)
Abstract Naturalized metaphysics remains a default presupposition of much contemporary philosophy of physics. As metaphysics is supposed to be about the general structure of reality, so a naturalized metaphysics draws upon our best physical theories: Assuming the truth of such a theory, it attempts to answer the “foundational question par excellence “, “how could the world possibly be the way this theory says it is?“ It is argued that attention to historical detail in the development and formulation of physical (...) theories serves as an ever-relevant hygienic corrective to the “sentiment of rationality“ underlying the naturalistic impulse to read ontology off of physics. (shrink)
Newly updated study surveys concept of space from standpoint of historical development. Space in antiquity, Judeo-Christian ideas about space, Newton’s concept of absolute space, space from 18th century to present. Extensive new chapter (6) reviews changes in philosophy of space since publication of second edition (1969). Numerous original quotations and bibliographical references. "...admirably compact and swiftly paced style."—Philosophy of Science. Foreword by Albert Einstein. Bibliography.
In the course of the history of science, some concepts have forged theoretical foundations, constituting paradigms that hold sway for substantial periods of time. Research on the history of explanations of the action of one body on another is a testament to the periodic revival of one theory in particular, namely, the theory of ether. Even after the foundation of modern Physics, the notion of ether has directly and indirectly withstood the test of time. Through a spontaneous (...)physics philosophical analysis, this article will explore how certain aspects of the concept of ether have appeared in different branches of the history of science. (shrink)
Most recent work on the nature of experiment in physics has focused on "big science"--the large-scale research addressed in Andrew Pickering's Constructing Quarks and Peter Galison's How Experiments End. This book examines small-scale experiment in physics, in particular the relation between theory and practice. The contributors focus on interactions among the people, materials, and ideas involved in experiments--factors that have been relatively neglected in science studies. The first half of the book is primarily philosophical, with contributions from (...) Andrew Pickering, Peter Galison, Hans Radder, Brian Baigrie, and Yves Gingras. Among the issues they address are the resources deployed by theoreticians and experimenters, the boundaries that constrain theory and practice, the limits of objectivity, the reproducibility of results, and the intentions of researchers. The second half is devoted to historical case studies in the practice of physics from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth century. These chapters address failed as well as successful experimental work ranging from Victorian astronomy through Hertz's investigation of cathode rays to Trouton's attempt to harness the ether. Contributors to this section are Jed Z. Buchwald, Giora Hon, Margaret Morrison, Simon Schaffer, and Andrew Warwick. With a lucid introduction by Ian Hacking, and original articles by noted scholars in the history and philosophy of science, this book is poised to become a significant source on the nature of small-scale experiment in physics. (shrink)
This book examines a selection of philosophical issues in the context of specific episodes in the development of physical theories. Advances in science are presented against the historical and philosophical backgrounds in which they occurred. A major aim is to impress upon the reader the essential role that philosophical considerations have played in the actual practice of science. The book begins with some necessary introduction to the history of ancient and early modern science, with major emphasis being given to (...) the two great watersheds of twentieth-century physics: relativity and, especially, quantum mechanics. At times the term 'construction' may seem more appropriate than 'discovery' for the way theories have developed and, especially in the later chapters, the question of the influence of historical, philosophical and even social factors on the very form and content of scientific theories is discussed. (shrink)
After 1905, Einstein's miraculous year, physics would never be the same again. In those twelve months, Einstein shattered many cherished scientific beliefs with five extraordinary papers that would establish him as the world's leading physicist. This book brings those papers together in an accessible format. The best-known papers are the two that founded special relativity: On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies and Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on Its Energy Content? In the former, Einstein showed that absolute (...) time had to be replaced by a new absolute: the speed of light. In the second, he asserted the equivalence of mass and energy, which would lead to the famous formula E = mc 2 . The book also includes On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light , in which Einstein challenged the wave theory of light, suggesting that light could also be regarded as a collection of particles. This helped to open the door to a whole new world--that of quantum physics. For ideas in this paper, he won the Nobel Prize in 1921. The fourth paper also led to a Nobel Prize, although for another scientist, Jean Perrin. On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat concerns the Brownian motion of such particles. With profound insight, Einstein blended ideas from kinetic theory and classical hydrodynamics to derive an equation for the mean free path of such particles as a function of the time, which Perrin confirmed experimentally. The fifth paper, A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions , was Einstein's doctoral dissertation, and remains among his most cited articles. It shows how to calculate Avogadro's number and the size of molecules. These papers, presented in a modern English translation, are essential reading for any physicist, mathematician, or astrophysicist. Far more than just a collection of scientific articles, this book presents work that is among the high points of human achievement and marks a watershed in the history of science. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the miraculous year, this new paperback edition includes an introduction by John Stachel, which focuses on the personal aspects of Einstein's youth that facilitated and led up to the miraculous year. (shrink)
Late in the nineteenth century, physics noticed a puzzling conflict between the laws of physics and what actually happens. The laws make no distinction between past and future—if they allow a process to happen one way, they allow it in reverse.1 But many familiar processes are in practice ‘irreversible’, common in one orientation but unknown ‘backwards’. Air leaks out of a punctured tyre, for example, but never leaks back in. Hot drinks cool down to room temperature, but never (...) spontaneously heat up. Once we start looking, these examples are all around us—that’s why films shown in reverse often look odd. Hence the puzzle: What could be the source of this widespread temporal bias in the world, if the underlying laws are so even-handed? Call this the Puzzle of Temporal Bias, or PTB for short. It’s an oft-told tale how other puzzles of the late nineteenth century soon led to the two most famous achievements of twentieth century physics, relativity and quantum mechanics. Progress on PTB was much slower, but late in the twentieth century cosmology provided a spectacular answer, or partial answer, to this deep puzzle. Because the phenomena at the heart of PTB are so familiar, so ubiquitous, and so crucial to our own existence, the achievement is one of the most important in the entire history of physics. Yet it is littleknown and underrated, at least compared to the other twentieth century solutions to nineteenth century puzzles. Why is it underrated? Partly because people underestimate the original puzzle, or misunderstand it, and so don’t see what a big part of it is addressed by the new cosmology. And partly for a deeper, more philosophical reason, connected with the view that we don’t need to explain initial conditions. This has two effects. First, people undervalue the job done so far by cosmology, in telling us something very surprising.. (shrink)
It is argued in this paper that the valid argument forms coming under the general heading of Demonstrative Induction have played a highly significant role in the history of theoretical physics. This situation was thoroughly appreciated by several earlier philosophers of science and deserves to be more widely known and understood.
Final draft (September 2013 - going to production) of the book on the notion of fundamental length I have been writing for the last couple of years, covering issues in the philosophy of math, metaphysics, and the history and the philosophy of modern physics, from classical electrodynamics to current theories of quantum gravity. To be published (2014) in Cambridge University Press.
Abraham Pais's Subtle Is the Lord was a publishing phenomenon: a mathematically sophisticated exposition of the science and the life of Albert Einstein that reached a huge audience and won an American Book Award. Reviewers hailed the book as "a monument to sound scholarship and graceful style" (The New York Times Book Review), "an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man" (Christian Science Monitor), and "a fine book" (Scientific American). In this groundbreaking new volume, Pais undertakes a history of the (...)physics of matter and of physical forces since the discovery of x-rays. The book attempts to relate not only what has happened over the last hundred years but why it happened the way it did, what it was like for those scientists involved, and how what at the time may have seemed a series of bizarre or unrelated events, now with hindsight emerges as a logical sequence of events. Pais, a noted physicist, was personally involved in many of the developments he describes, and thus Inward Bound , like his earlier book, is filled with unique insights into the world of big and small physics. Between 1895 and 1983, the period he covers, the smallest distances explored have shrunk a hundred millionfold, Pais notes. Along this incompletely traveled "road inward," scientists have established markers that later generations will rank among the principal monuments of the twentieth century. In alternating technical and nontechnical sections, this magisterial survey richly conveys what has been discovered about the constituents of matter, the laws to which they are subject, and the forces that act on them. But the advances have certainly not come smoothly. The book shows that these have been times of progress and stagnation, of order and chaos, of clarity and confusion, of belief and incredulity, of the conventional and the bizarre; also of revolutionaries and conservatives, of science by individuals and by consortia, of little gadgets and big machines, and of modest funds and big money. About the Author: Abraham Pais is Detlev W. Bronk Professor of Physics at the Rockefeller University. The author of the prizewinning biography of Einstein now undertakes a history of modern physics. (shrink)
Universally recognized as bringing about a revolutionary transformation of the notions of space, time, and motion in physics, Einstein's theory of gravitation, known as "general relativity," was also a defining event for 20th century philosophy of science. During the decisive first ten years of the theory's existence, two main tendencies dominated its philosophical reception. This book is an extended argument that the path actually taken, which became logical empiricist philosophy of science, greatly contributed to the current impasse over realism, (...) whereas new possibilities are opened in revisiting and reviving the spirit of the more sophisticated tendency, a cluster of viewpoints broadly termed transcendental idealism, and furthering its articulation. It also emerges that Einstein, while paying lip service to the emerging philosophy of logical empiricism, ended up siding de facto with the latter tendency. Ryckman's work speaks to several groups, among them philosophers of science and historians of relativity. Equations are displayed as necessary, but Ryckman gives the non-mathematical reader enough background to understand their occurrence in the context of his wider philosophical project. (shrink)
Underpinning all the other branches of science, physics affects the way we live our lives, and ultimately how life itself functions. Recent scientific advances have led to dramatic reassessment of our understanding of the world around us, and made a significant impact on our lifestyle. In this book, leading international experts, including Nobel prize winners, explore the frontiers of modern physics, from the particles inside an atom to the stars that make up a galaxy, from nano-engineering and brain (...) research to high-speed data networks. Revealing how physics plays a vital role in what we see around us, this book will fascinate scientists of all disciplines, and anyone wanting to know more about the world of physics today. (shrink)
Much of the history of physics at the beginning of the twentieth century has been written with a sharp focus on a few key figures and a handful of notable events. Einstein’s Generation offers a distinctive new approach to the origins of modern physics by exploring both the material culture that stimulated relativity and the reaction of Einstein’s colleagues to his pioneering work. Richard Staley weaves together the diverse strands of experimental and theoretical physics, commercial instrument (...) making, and the sociology of physics around 1900 to present a complete view of the collective efforts of a group whose work helped set the stage for Einstein’s revolutionary theories and the transition from classical to modern physics that followed. Collecting papers, talks, catalogues, conferences, and correspondence, Staley juxtaposes scientists’ views of relativity at the time to modern understandings of its history. Ultimately, Einstein’s Generation tells the story of a group of individuals whose work engendered some of the most significant advances of the twentieth century—and challenges our celebration of Einstein’s era above all others. (shrink)
Sir Arthur Eddington, the celebrated astrophysicist, made great strides towards his own 'theory of everything'in his last two books published in 1936 and 1946. Unlike his earlier lucid and authoritative works, these are strangely tentative and obscure - as if he were nervous of the significant advances that he might be making. This volume examines both how Eddington came to write these uncharacteristic books - in the context of the physics and history of the day - and what (...) value they have to modern physics. The result is an illuminating description of the development of theoretical physics, in the first half of the twentieth century, from a unique point of view: how it affected Eddington's thought. This will provide fascinating reading for scholars in the philosophy of science, theoretical physics, applied mathematics and the history of science. (shrink)
In this paper, we discuss the general significance of order in physics, as a first step toward the development of new notions of order. We begin with a brief historical discussion of the notions of order underlying ancient Greek views, and then go on to show how these changed in key ways with the rise of classical physics. This leads to a broader view of the significance of order, which helps to indicate what is to be meant by (...) a change of our general notions of order in physics. We then go into relativity and quantum theory, showing how these developments actually did bring in further new notions of order, which are however inconsistent and otherwise inadequate in certain ways. Finally, using these inconsistencies and inadequacies as clues or indications for yet a further new concept of order, we make some proposals for novel directions of inquiry (to be discussed in some detail in later papers) which could lead to theories as different from relativity and quantum theory as these are from classical physics. (shrink)
These are but just some of the stories covered in this entertaining book that deals with the history of physics from the end of the 19th-century to about 1930.Quips, Quotes and Quanta (2nd Edition) is unique in that it contains anecdotes on ...
Using an original approach, Mauro Dardo recounts the major achievements of twentieth-century physics--including relativity, quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, the invention of the transistor and the laser, superconductivity, binary pulsars, and the Bose-Einstein condensate--as each emerged. His year-by-year chronicle, biographies and revealing personal anecdotes help bring to life the main events since the first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. The work of the most famous physicists of the twentieth century--including the Curies, Bohr, Heisenberg, Einstein, Fermi, Feynman, (...) Gell-Mann, Rutherford, and Schrödinger--is presented, often in the words and imagery of the prize-winners themselves. Mauro Dardo is Professor of Experimental Physics at Amedeo Avogadro University. He has served as Dean of the new Faculty of Sciences at the University of Turin in Alessandria, Piedmont, and has also served as Director of the university's new department of Sciences and Advanced Technologies. (shrink)
Physics, once known as “natural philosophy,” is the most basic science, explaining the world we live in, from the largest scale down to the very, very, very smallest, and our understanding of it has changed over many centuries. In Black Bodies and Quantum Cats , science writer Jennifer Ouellette traces key developments in the field, setting descriptions of the fundamentals of physics in their historical context as well as against a broad cultural backdrop. Newton’s laws are illustrated via (...) the film Addams Family Values , while Back to the Future demonstrates the finer points of special relativity. Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” serves to illuminate the mysterious nature of neutrinos, and Jeanette Winterson’s novel Gut Symmetries provides an elegant metaphorical framework for string theory. An enchanting and edifying read, Black Bodies and Quantum Cats shows that physics is not an arcane field of study but a profoundly human endeavor—and a fundamental part of our everyday world. (shrink)
Natural philosophy encompassed all natural phenomena of the physical world. It sought to discover the physical causes of all natural effects and was little concerned with mathematics. By contrast, the exact mathematical sciences were narrowly confined to various computations that did not involve physical causes, functioning totally independently of natural philosophy. Although this began slowly to change in the late Middle Ages, a much more thoroughgoing union of natural philosophy and mathematics occurred in the seventeenth century and thereby made the (...) Scientific Revolution possible. The title of Isaac Newton's great work, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, perfectly reflects the new relationship. Natural philosophy became the 'Great Mother of the Sciences,' which by the nineteenth century had nourished the manifold chemical, physical, and biological sciences to maturity, thus enabling them to leave the 'Great Mother' and emerge as the multiplicity of independent sciences we know today. (shrink)
Aristotelian, classical, and quantum physics are compared and contrasted in light of Jacob Klein’s account of the algebraicization of thought and the resultingdetachment of mind from world, even as human problem-solving power is greatly increased. Two fundamental features of classical physics are brought out: species-neutrality, which concerns the relation between the intelligible and the sensible, and physico-mathematical secularism, which concerns the question of the difference between mathematical objects and physical objects, and whether any differences matter. In contrast to (...) Aristotelian physics, which is species-specific, classical physics is species-neutral. In contrast to both Aristotelian and quantum physics, classical physics assumes that any differences between mathematical objects and physical objects make no difference for the conduct of physics. Aristotle’s act and potency, and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle are discussed as counterexamples to the physico-mathematical secularism of classical physics. The algebraicization of thought in conjunction with the disposition and program for the mastery of nature leads to the homogenization of heterogeneities in both mathematics and physics, and, therewith, to confusion concerning the meaning of human being and our place in the whole. (shrink)
The rising interest, in the late 20th century, in the foundations of quantum physics, a subject in which Franco Selleri has excelled, has suggested the fair question: how did it become so? The current answer says that experiments have allowed to bring into the laboratories some previous gedanken experiments, beginning with those about EPR and related to Bell’s inequalities. I want to explore an alternative view, by which there would have been, before Bell’s inequalities experimental tests, a change in (...) the views shared by physicists concerning the intellectual status of that issue. I will take three cases which will serve as the threads of our story: the connections between Bohm’s causal interpretation and Bell’s inequalities; Wigner’s ideas on the measurement problem; and finally Everett’s relative states formulation. In the end, I will discuss how those threads were gathered together by creating foundations of quantum physics as a field of research. (shrink)