Monthly Archives: March 2013

Einstein at Leyden (1920): Making Sense of His Reversion to Ether

Einstein is often touted as the physicist to annihilate the idea of the ether.  This is peculiar, because it is as though the world stopped listening to his opinion on the matter prior to his reflections on general relativity (GR).  Einstein never got too excited about proclaiming that an ether, after the conception of GR, is necessary; but he did, nonetheless, make clear arguments, the details, philosophical and historical, I will try to fill in —if only even a few of them.  Continue reading

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Filed under History of Physics, History of Science, Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Physics

Einstein, Poincaré, and Kant: Between Galison and Yourgrau

I find something deeply puzzling about Peter Galison’s Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps: Empires of Time.  In particular, this wonderful book develops the contextual settings in which the relativistic physics of Einstein’s and Poincaré’s physics were conceived, as well as the intellectual link that existed between them.  In brief, Galison makes clear the role that technology played in formulating the ideas of Einstein and Poincaré.  The hope of Europe was to establish a synchronized system of clocks, for economic reasons (e.g., train services without collisions due to timing issues), political reasons (e.g., von Moltke maintained that a strong relationship existed between German national unity and einheitzeit), and general technology concerns (e.g., inductance in wires can cause incredible and varying lag times in signal transmission, as a function of distance and current among other variables, in telegraphy).  Poincaré, having been educated at the École Polytechnique, possessed the “factory stamp” that their students possessed: even the mathematicians were essentially “mechanicians”. Einstein, educated at one of Europe’s leading technology universities and working in a patent office, machine patents abound, and Poincaré being thoroughly immersed in problems dealing with telegraphy (electrodynamics) and clock synchronization, Galison makes the claim that relativity theory is largely a product of the machine-minded science of the nineteenth century.   Continue reading

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Filed under History of Science, Kantian Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science

Assessing the Explaining Away of Elements of the Human World Qua Experience

I have recently been overwhelmed by a large number of scientific topics that bear one very important relation to one another.  The relationship is the theme of holism; or, more accurately, the debate between reductive and holistic science.  Plato’s notion of carving nature at its joints is one that the early modern through present scientific ventures embrace and take for granted.  The point of the following post is not to rehash any of the points in the reduction/anti-reduction debate, but to present some perspective, without actually going into the debate.  More or less, I was to touch on some of the philosophical features that have jumped out at me, as of late.   Continue reading

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“Nomos and Physis”: Duquesne University’s 7th Annual Graduate Conference in Philosophy

There was a very nice turnout at Duquesne University’s 7th Annual graduate conference in philosophy (themed “Nomos and Physis”).  A big thanks goes to the Duquesne Department of philosophy and Matt Lovett for running such a well-organized event.  The spread of papers presented was diverse array of subtopics: Phenomenology and Nature; Nature In Itself, Nature for Us; Nature in Ancient Philosophy; Contemporary Ontologies and Nature.  The general sentiment around the room seemed to be that the questions, discussion, and commentary was productive.  Probably the most fascinating element of the conference —I know not if it was by design or happenstance— was that the papers reflected holistic approaches to philosophical considerations pertaining to Nature.   Continue reading

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Filed under Cosmology, History of Science, Kantian Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Physics, Popular Science