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)
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)
For nearly a decade we have taught the history and philosophy of science as part of courses aimed at the professional development of physics teachers. The focus of the history of science instruction is on the stages in the development of the concepts and theories of physics. For this instruction, we designed activities to help the teachers organize their understanding of this historical development. The activities include scientific modeling using archaic theories. We conducted surveys to gauge (...) the impact on the teachers of including the conceptual history of physics in the professional development courses. The teachers report greater confidence in their knowledge of the history of physics, that they reflect on this history for their teaching, and that they use of the history of physics for their classroom instruction. In this paper, we provide examples of our activities, the rationale for their design, and discuss the outcomes for the teachers of the instruction. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
In the theory-dominated view of scientific experimentation, all relations of theory and experiment are taken on a par; namely, that experiments are performed solely to ascertain the conclusions of scientific theories. As a result, different aspects of experimentation and of the relation of theory to experiment remain undifferentiated. This in turn fosters a notion of theory-ladenness of experimentation that is too coarse-grained to accurately describe the relations of theory and experiment in scientific practice. By contrast, in this article, I suggest (...) that TLE should be understood as an umbrella concept that has different senses. To this end, I introduce a three-fold distinction among the theories of high-energy particle physics as background theories, model theories and phenomenological models. Drawing on this categorization, I contrast two types of experimentation, namely, “theory-driven” and “exploratory” experiments, and I distinguish between the “weak” and “strong” senses of TLE in the context of scattering experiments from the history of HEP. This distinction enables to identify the exploratory character of the deep-inelastic electron-proton scattering experiments—performed at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center between the years 1967 and 1973—thereby shedding light on a crucial phase of the history of HEP, namely, the discovery of “scaling”, which was the decisive step towards the construction of quantum chromo-dynamics as a gauge theory of strong interactions. (shrink)
In line with their previous studies dedicated to quantum chemistry (Gavroglu and Simões 1994, 2000; Simões and Gavroglu 1997, 2001), the last joint publication by Kostas Gavroglu and Ana Simões provides the readers not only with a fine-grained, rigorous, and highly valuable book on the history of science but also with stimulating epistemological insights about the way ‘in-between’ disciplines, to use the authors’ turn of phrase, emerge from the convergence of diverging ‘styles’ of research and heterogeneous practices. To make (...) their point, the authors divide their work into four main chapters before drawing epistemological and historiographical conclusions in the fifth and last part of their work. The first chapter entitled ‘Quantum Chemistry qua Physics: The Promises and Deadlocks of Using First Principles’ focuses mainly on German researchers’ contributions in the development of quantum chemistry. In this respect, it highlights four pioneering moments: (1) Walter Heitler and Fritz Lo. (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)
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 this paper, we discuss the history of the concept of function and emphasize in particular how problems in physics have led to essential changes in its definition and application in mathematical practices. Euler defined a function as an analytic expression, whereas Dirichlet defined it as a variable that depends in an arbitrary manner on another variable. The change was required when mathematicians discovered that analytic expressions were not sufficient to represent physical phenomena such as the vibration of (...) a string and heat conduction. The introduction of generalized functions or distributions is shown to stem partly from the development of new theories of physics such as electrical engineering and quantum mechanics that led to the use of improper functions such as the delta function that demanded a proper foundation. We argue that the development of student understanding of mathematics and its nature is enhanced by embedding mathematical concepts and theories, within an explicit–reflective framework, into a rich historical context emphasizing its interaction with other disciplines such as physics. Students recognize and become engaged with meta-discursive rules governing mathematics. Mathematics teachers can thereby teach inquiry in mathematics as it occurs in the sciences, as mathematical practice aimed at obtaining new mathematical knowledge. We illustrate such a historical teaching and learning of mathematics within an explicit and reflective framework by two examples of student-directed, problem-oriented project work following the Roskilde Model, in which the connection to physics is explicit and provides a learning space where the nature of mathematics and mathematical practices are linked to natural science. (shrink)
In the first part of chapter 2 of book II of the Physics Aristotle addresses the issue of the difference between mathematics and physics. In the course of his discussion he says some things about astronomy and the ‘ ‘ more physical branches of mathematics”. In this paper I discuss historical issues concerning the text, translation, and interpretation of the passage, focusing on two cruxes, the first reference to astronomy at 193b25–26 and the reference to the more physical branches at (...) 194a7–8. In section I, I criticize Ross’s interpretation of the passage and point out that his alteration of has no warrant in the Greek manuscripts. In the next three sections I treat three other interpretations, all of which depart from Ross's: in section II that of Simplicius, which I commend; in section III that of Thomas Aquinas, which is importantly influenced by a mistranslation of, and in section IV that of Ibn Rushd, which is based on an Arabic text corresponding to that printed by Ross. In the concluding section of the paper I describe the modern history of the Greek text of our passage and translations of it from the early twelfth century until the appearance of Ross's text in 1936. (shrink)
Over forty years after the foundations of the special theory of relativity had been securely laid, a heated debate, beginning in 1965, about the correct formulation of relativistic thermodynamics raged in the physics literature. Prior to 1965, relativistic thermodynamics was considered one of the most secure relativistic theories and one of the most simple and elegant examples of relativization in physics. It is, as its name apparently suggests, the result of the application of the special theory of relativity (...) to thermodynamics. The basic assumption is that the first and second laws of thermodynamics are Lorentz-invariant, and, as a result, a set of Lorentz transformations is derived from thermodynamic magnitudes, such as heat and temperature. (shrink)
The inclusion of the history and philosophy of science in science teaching is widely accepted, but the actual state of implementation in schools is still poor. This article investigates possible reasons for this discrepancy. The demands science teachers associate with HPS-based teaching play an important role, since these determine teachers’ decisions towards implementing its practices and ideas. We therefore investigate the perceptions of 8 HPS-experienced German middle school physics teachers within and beyond an HPS implementation project. Within focused (...) interviews these teachers describe and evaluate the challenges of planning and conducting HPS-based physics lessons using collaboratively developed HPS teaching materials. The teachers highlight a number of obstacles to the implementation of HPS specific to this approach: finding and adapting HPS teaching material, knowing and using instructional design principles for HPS lessons, presenting history in a motivating way, dealing with students’ problematic ideas about the history of science, conducting open-ended historical classroom investigations in the light of known historical outcomes, using historical investigations to teach modern science concepts, designing assessments to target HPS-specific learning outcomes, and justifying the HPS-approach against curriculum and colleagues. Teachers' perceived demands point out critical aspects of pedagogical content knowledge necessary for confident, comfortable and effective teaching of HPS-based science. They also indicate how HPS teacher education and the design of curricular materials can be improved to make implementing HPS into everyday teaching less demanding. (shrink)