To this day, a hundred and fifty years after Mendeleev's discovery, the overal structure of the periodic system remains unaccounted for in quantum-mechanical terms. Given this dire situation, a handful of scientists in the 1970s embarked on a quest for the symmetries that lie hidden in the periodic table. Their goal was to explain the table's structure in group-theoretical terms. We argue that this symmetry program required an important paradigm shift in the understanding of the nature of chemical elements. The (...) idea, in essence, consisted of treating the chemical elements, not as particles, but as states of a superparticle. We show that the inspiration for this came from elementary particle physics, and in particular from Heisenberg's suggestion to treat the proton and neutron as different states of the nucleon. We provide a careful study of Heisenberg's last paper on the nature of elementary particles, and explain why the Democritean picture of matter no longer applied in modern physics and a Platonic symmetry-based picture was called for instead. We show how Heisenberg's Platonic philosophy came to dominate the field of elementary particle physics, and how it found its culmination point in Gell-Mann's classification of the hadrons in the eightfold way. We argue that it was the success of Heisenberg's approach in elementary particle physics that sparked the group-theoretical approach to the periodic table. We explain how it was applied to the set of chemical elements via a critical examination of the work of the Russian mathematician Abram Ilyich Fet the Turkish-American physicist Asim Orhan Barut, before giving some final reflections. (shrink)
The debate on the conventionality of simultaneity and the debate on the dimensionality of the world have been central in the philosophy of special relativity. The link between both debates however has rarely been explored. The purpose of this paper is to gauge what implications the former debate has for the latter. I show the situation to be much more subtle than was previously argued, and explain how the ontic versus epistemic distinction in the former debate impacts the latter. Despite (...) claims to the contrary, I conclude that special relativity leaves the debate on the dimensionality of the world underdetermined. (shrink)
Human freedom is in tension with nomological determinism and with statistical determinism. The goal of this paper is to answer both challenges. Four contributions are made to the free-will debate. First, we propose a classification of scientific theories based on how much freedom they allow. We take into account that indeterminism comes in different degrees and that both the laws and the auxiliary conditions can place constraints. A scientific worldview pulls towards one end of this classification, while libertarianism pulls towards (...) the other end of the spectrum. Second, inspired by Hoefer, we argue that an interval of auxiliary conditions corresponds to a region in phase space, and to a bundle of possible block universes. We thus make room for a form of non-nomological indeterminism. Third, we combine crucial elements from the works of Hoefer and List; we attempt to give a libertarian reading of this combination. On our proposal, throughout spacetime, there is a certain amount of freedom that can be interpreted as the result of agential choices. Fourth, we focus on the principle of alternative possibilities throughout and propose three ways of strengthening it. (shrink)
In the past few decades there has been a growing interest and debate amongst historians of education surrounding issues of visuality, materiality, spatiality, transfer, and circulation. This collection of essays – with its focus on the interaction between ideas, images, objects, and/or spaces that contain an educational dimension – is a contribution to this ongoing debate. The contributors address how meaning is created, conveyed, and transformed through multiple modes of communication, representation, and interaction; through movement across spaces; through media and (...) technologies; and through collective memory- and identity-making. The collection demonstrates that meaning is mobilized through ‘multimodality’, ‘translocation’, ‘technology’, and ‘heritage’, and that it assumes different qualities which need to be reflected upon in the history of education in particular and in education research in general. This book was originally published as a special issue of _Paedagogica Historica. _. (shrink)
The heated debates and severe conflicts between the atomists and the anti-atomists of the latter half of the nineteenth century are well known to the historian of science. The position of Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev towards these nineteenth century debates on atomism will be studied in this paper. A first attempt will thus be offered to reconcile Mendeleev’s seemingly contradictory comments and ambiguous standpoints into one coherent view.
The standard model of subatomic particles and the periodic table of the atoms have the common goal to bring order in the bewildering chaos of the constituents of matter. Their success relies on the presence of fundamental symmetries in their core. The purpose of the book is to share the admiration for the power and the beauty of these symmetries. The reader is taken on a journey from the basic geometric symmetry group of a circle to the sublime dynamic symmetries (...) that govern the motions of the particles. The trail follows the lines of parentage linking groups upstream to the unitary symmetry of the eightfold way of quarks, and to the four-dimensional symmetry of the hydrogen atom. Along the way the theory of symmetry groups is gradually introduced with special emphasis on graphical representations. The final challenge is to open up the structure of Mendeleev's table which goes beyond the symmetry of the hydrogen atom. Breaking this symmetry to accommodate the multi-electron atoms requires to leave the common ground of linear algebras and explore the potential of non-linearity. (shrink)
The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to closely explore the nature of Einstein’s block universe and to tease out its implications for the nature of time and human freedom. Four questions, in particular, are central to this dissertation, and set out the four dimensions of this philosophical investigation: (1) Does the block universe view of time follow inevitably from the theory of special relativity? (2) Is there room for the passage of time in the block universe? (3) Can we (...) distinguish past from future in the block universe? (4) Is there room for human freedom in the block universe? Although the answer of most philosophers would be yes, triple no, my own answer, controversially, is no, triple yes. -/- I thereby challenge the status quo with respect to each of these metaphysical questions, and argue that none of these questions can be answered from looking at physics alone. Physics may constrain our metaphysics, but it certainly does not settle it. What is needed in order to answer these questions, are additional metaphysical assumptions that fall outside the scope of modern physics. My primary goal in this dissertation, therefore, is not to settle the debates on the nature of time and human freedom, but to clarify them by expliciting the metaphysical assumptions that are otherwise left implicit. (shrink)