Tag Archives: history of science

Distinguishing between Types of Science: Unmixing Metaphysics and Pragmatic Science

I get questions regularly about the bizarre nature of contemporary physics.  I am sure practicing physicists with PhDs get these more regularly than I, yet I occupy an interesting and rare position in the academic disciplinary landscape: I’ve studied science, particularly physics, into the graduate level, and I am actively developing my expertise in the history and philosophy of science, particularly physics, as well as being a lifelong student of more traditional philosophy (e.g., analytic, contemporary, and Eastern).  The question most regularly asked of late has been: What are physicists talking about with all of this “non-verifiable” theory; it sounds like philosophy?  By this, they mean the fact that there is this apparent post-empirical turn, and the lack of requirement of empirical data to substantiate proposed theory.  I’d like to spend some length explaining my thoughts on this, including a suggestion to all practicing scientists, regardless of discipline.

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Filed under Cosmology, Epistemology, History and Philosophy of Science, History of Physics, History of Science, Natural Philosophy, Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Physics, Popular Science, Science

Between Feynman in Babylon and Metaphysics: What the Mathematical Process and the History of Science Can Tell Us Philosophically about the Education Process

Since I have spent the summer studying mathematics at Harvard University with Jameel Al-Aidroos (Ph.D Berkeley), expect that my next few posts, or at least some of them, will be on topics related to mathematics.  I want to take some time, in this blog post, to look at where mathematical thought fits into some of my understandings of I have gleaned from studying the history of science.  The upshot of the historical, philosophical, and mathematical content and musings will be pedagogical, just to give the reader some idea of where I am going.  An important thing to understand, before reading this post, is the distinction between pure and applied mathematics.  “Pure mathematics,” as opposed to “applied mathematics,” is, in its essence, math for its own sake, entirely apart from possible applications.  In many cases, pure mathematics initially has no known application.  Additionally, pure mathematics deals with abstract entities that have been detached from particular entities —and this will prove to be important to what I will say later.

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Filed under Education, History and Philosophy of Science, History of Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, Philosophy of Mathematics

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