Sciences and their founders

wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk
Wed Mar 22 07:40:58 MST 1995


Philip
-------
 Paul then proceeds to show that
aspects of Gallileo's and Newton's theories are retained and supported by
modern relativity theory. What's more, Paul says that everyone still uses
Newtonian theory for practical calculations. I find Paul's account,
despite its wonderful citations of historians, utterly ahistorical. One
would wonder why physicists ever develop new theories if the old ones are
just as good as the new ones.

Paul
-----
The citations that I have been giving are all from
leading physicists not historians
Weinberg is at the department of physics at Texas
Hawkings is the Laucasian Professor of Maths at Cambridge
and thus is the present occupant of Newtons Chair at that university.
Their views may be fairly taken as representative of
modern views in physics.

The reason why physicists develop new theories is either to account
for observations of domains that were previously inaccessible
or to attempt to generalise several previous theories under a
new and more encompassing one. This is not a matter of getting
rid of an old theory, but seeing that it is in fact a special
case of a more general one.

Philip
------
 One
would wonder why physicists ever develop new theories if the old ones are
just as good as the new ones. If I remember right, there were problems
with wave motion that Newton's theory couldn't explain and that
Einstein's theory could.

Paul
----
It depends upon what you mean by wave motion. If you are refering to
Einsteins paper on the photo-electric effect, this is was addressed
to difficulties in the spectrum of black body radiation when one
tried to explain it using Maxwell's theory of electromagnetic radiation.
This had very little to do with Newton, and it is arguable that
Einsteins response - that electromagnetic energy was quantised,
reflects a return, albeit in more sophisticated form, to the
Newtonian corpuscular-undulatory theory.


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