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Fortran, Physics, and Human Nature

  • Peter Galison
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 139)

Abstract

During the late 1950s and 1960s, bubble chambers buried physicists. At first thousands, soon tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and at last millions of photographs issued from the cameras at the massive chambers of the largest particle physics laboratories in the world: Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (LRL), Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), the Center for European Nuclear Research (CERN) along with a host of other laboratories including Dubna (in the Soviet Union), and Rutherford Laboratory (in the U.K.). Together, these sites produced data on new particles that transformed the discipline intellectually through a much-deepened understanding of symmetry principles and nuclear forces. It did so at a cost. Already inflated by construction outlays, the price of doing particle physics surged further as “armies” of technicians and scanners joined physicists in sorting through the endless stream of 70 mm negatives. But the burden of photographic plenitude was not simply economic: physicists struggled to define the right relation between scientist and data, between physicist and technician, and between human and machine. At stake, the physicists argued, was not simply a matter of new technologies — each solution to the picture problem was at one and the same time an argument about the boundary of what it meant to be a physicist, a scientist, and a human being.1

Keywords

Human Nature Fiducial Mark Bubble Chamber Fiducial Point Scanning Table 
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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Notes

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Galison
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Philosophy and PhysicsStanford UniversityUSA

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