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Beauty in Revolution: The Aesthetics of Scientific Progress

  • Ernst Peter Fischer
Chapter

Abstract

Sometimes science makes philosophers clueless. Why is it, they keep asking, that research in the natural sciences is so successful and that very often it is actually possible to know and explain a thing? Not only the blue of the sky on a cloudless day or the red of clouds at sunset, both brought about by the simple scattering process of particles, but also all of the colors of a metal heated long enough to show its incandescence. To be able to explain these colorful pallets that depend on temperature, physicists have to know not only that there are atoms, they also have to understand how these atoms are built and what gives them stability. How do scientists know this? How do they know that they know anything—for example, that planets move in an elliptical orbit around the sun, or that atoms have a positively charged nucleus and that negatively charged electrons move around the nucleus symmetrically but do not make a classical orbit? How do they know that light travels across a vacuum at the speed of light in the form of electromagnetic waves and can at the same time appear as a packet of energy? How do they know that bacteria have genes whose variations (mutations) take place spontaneously and arbitrarily and are not induced?

Keywords

Circular Orbit Elliptical Orbit Inductive Logic Scientific Revolution Necker Cube 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Endnotes

  1. 1.
    Simone Weil as quoted in Quadbeck-Seeger, H.-J. (Ed., 1988). Zwischen den Zeichen (p. 134). Weinheim.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cohen, I. B. (1994) discussed revolution in general in Revolutionen in der Naturwissenschaft. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The Bohr anecdotes are found for example in Werner Heisenbergs (1969) autobiography Der Teil und das Ganze. Munich.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Popper, K. (1969). Logik der Forschung. Tübingen: Mohr Verlag. In English translation (1965): Logic of scientific discovery. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The quotes by Einstein are found in (1993) Gesammelten Schriften (Collected papers), Vol. 5, pp. 271 and 604. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The analysis of Robert Millikan is found in the essay, “On the art of scientific imagination” by Gerald Holton (1996, spring); it appeared in the journal Daedalus, 183–208.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Thomas Kuhn’s (1970) thesis is found in his book Structure of scientific revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, in which he also briefly addresses the role of perception in science. He establishes his paradigm in the volume of essays The essential tension (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1977).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Details on Lavoisier can be found in Serres, M. (Ed., 1994). Elemente einer Geschichte der Wissenschaft. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kuhn, T. (1970). Structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Fitzek, H., and Salber, W. (1996). Gestalt Psychologie. Darmstadt and Metzger, W. (1968) in the journal n+m, B. Mannheim (Ed.), 23,3–24 both discuss gestalt perception.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lorenz, K. (1965). Über tierisches und menschliches Verhalten, in Gesammelten Abhandlungen. Munich: Piper.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Gleick, J. (1992). Genius. New York: Pantheon Books, for more on Richard Feynman.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    McAllister, J. (1996). Beauty and the revolution in science. Ithaca: Dordrecht.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elizabeth Oehlkers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernst Peter Fischer

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