Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Four Stages of Science

In the comments to our recent post And how open would you want your science? Arun pointed out an interesting paper

In this paper, Shneider suggests to distinguish four different stages of a scientific discipline, that I will briefly summarize below. It is somewhat ironic the author writes he believes "this analysis could be instrumental for individual researchers in their career planning," but then publishes his paper in a subscription journal that wants to charge you US $ 31.50 for a 6 page article.

The identification of different stages through which a research program goes is an approach that resonates with me. I have been previously referring to this vaguely as "the stage of creative process," and have pointed out many times that there can be no overall prescription for what amount of "transformative" and "conservative" research a discipline needs that does not take into account different fields are in different creative phases. Thus any call for more support of one or the other research style is an oversimplified panacea that might or might not work in one or the other case.

However, though Shneider's paper is interesting, I don't find it very well thought through. In particular, the author tends to speak of the characteristics of a "science" and of "scientists," though I doubt these ever occur in a pure form. It would be more useful to characterize a specific research project, and then identify the stage of the discipline by what sort of projects are mainly pursued, or similarly characterize a scientist by what sort of projects he mainly works on. You also wouldn't call a restaurant or its cook "spicy," you'd call a dish spicy and then say the restaurant offers many spicy dishes, and the cook is known for them.

In any case, here the characteristics of the four stages:

Stage 1:First Stage

  • Introduction of new subject matter
  • New scientific language
  • Often based on new observations and/or experimental results
  • First stage scientists not necessarily the ones who discover new facts
  • First stage scientists often need to be somewhat imprecise or inaccurate because not all necessary facts are known or properly comprehended
  • Theory often contains uncertainty
  • First stage scientists do not always possess exquisite technical skills.
  • Philosophical, aesthetic and cultural views, analogies and literature are instrumental to the first stage scientists' mode of thinking


Stage 2:
  • Development of major techniques
  • Often re-applications of methods previously developed in another discipline (plus rethinking and adjustments to new task)
  • Main characteristic of second stage scientists are ingenuity and inventiveness, an ability to implement ideas and a high risk-tolerance



Stage 3:
  • Most of the actual data and useful knowledge is generated
  • Re-description of subject matter, creation of new insights and questions
  • Difficulties and unexplained phenomena often give birth to new first stage
  • Most useful personal qualities of third stage scientists are detail oriented, neat, hard working
  • Extensive knowledge of philosophy or art is not instrumental


Stage 4:
  • Communication and carrying on of knowledge
  • Reviews, organization of knowledge
  • Without the fourth stage scientists, the explosion of new data generated at the third stage would be chaotic
  • Development of applications
  • Re-evaluation of the role of the discipline in a possibly changing social and cultural context
  • Forth stage scientists use a broad spectrum of cultural and philosophical views
  • Forth stage work serves to inspire new generations of scientists


The paper also has some remarks on how these four stages relate to Kuhn's theory of scientific revolution. The author points out that Kuhn was aiming at characterizing paradigm shifts, not the life-cycle of scientific disciplines.

I think one should consider that a discipline might run into a case of arrested development in any stage, in which case too much effort goes into the wrong research direction. Unfortunately, such cases might become self-supporting due to the present organization of the academic system in which people go where money goes, and money goes where people go. This leads to the formation of the scientific analog to economic bubbles. As a result, the amount of people working in a field does not accurately reflect its actual promise.

Shneider provides many examples, but these are dominantly from past centuries and from biology and chemistry. If you have a current example, leave it in the comments.

58 comments:

Daniel de França MTd2 said...

So, string theory is at the 4 stages at the same time.

Bee said...

String theory is a case of arrested development. Stuck in adolescence, attempting to give birth to a new field, pretending to have the maturity of old age. The reason is lack of facts necessary for stage 1. Some sort of childhood trauma ;-)

Zephir said...

/*..string theory is a case of arrested development..*/
String theory is based on combination of QM and special relativity, so it's less advanced / general, then any combination of QM and general relativity. Unfortunately quantum gravity theories suffer by the same principal inconsistency, like string theories - just in a bit deeper level. In AWT string theory describes Aether foam from exsintric perspective of particles, while LQG from insintric perspective of space-time - but here's no big difference in general absence of logic for both theories.

Georg said...

Branes are the appropriate basis
for "quattro stagioni" .
Georg, hungry.

Bee said...

Zephir: How often will I have to repeat that this blog is *not* the place to advertise your theory. It is entirely pointless you try placing links to your site, I will delete them as you should have noticed by now. The only thing you achieve by this behavior is that at some point I'll be too tired to even read your comments and just delete all of them, no matter what the content.

Uncle Al said...

Management is about process not product. Freedom is compliance.

Stage 1: Enslavement, graduate student to post-doc.
Stage 2: Indentured servitude, tenure track or industrial lab chigger.
Stage 3: Despair.
Stage 4: Redundancy, for the world overflows with new graduates desperate for Stage 2.

GR assumes the Equivalence Principle. String theory demands it through BRST invariance. Opposite shoes can violate both - teleparallel gravitation. GR and string theory could be falsified by a footnote.

Giotis said...

That's why you should kill them while they are still infants like Herod did. If a theory grows old will never really die even if it is very ill.

Bee said...

There's a saying or maybe a quote from I-dunno-whom that goes "Progress is not made from conference to conference, but from funeral to funeral." There's definitely truth in it. It's probably a good argument against achieving human immortality ;-)

Giotis said...

Very nice quotation and there's definitely truth in it.

This reminds me the saying of Heraclitus that all things come into being through strife and war.

Plato said...

Nice to see these attempts at solidifying "a process for oneself" can become severely underestimated as to "what stage " when seen in relation to the "creative space" a subject can place one.

Occupationally you cannot get to stage four without having gone through the other stages of science. One's own perspective limits the attempt the stage will set course, by placing that limitation.

What stage is that?:)

Best,

Zephir said...

/*..it is entirely pointless you try placing links to your site..*/

I just placed link to picture, it's impossible to generate banner traffic in such way.

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Your review and related photos brings to mind what Plato alluded to, which is often it is the scientist that goes through stages, rather than the discipline. Unfortunately with it often comes the idea that those in phase one and phase four bring very little to the table, when it comes to new discovery. With the budding scientist, they are often dismissed as being naive and with the elder one as behind the times. Einstein for instance represented to be such a figure, along with many more. In the beginning he was scolded and warned he was willing to throw too much away and in the end ridiculed and mocked for appearing to be holding on to too much.

The truth being is much of it stems from the emotions of their peers, rather than their reason. I would then humbly suggest, that the only emotion which should be permitted in the execution of science, is the one which is usually described as a sense of wonder. That being since this is the only one the serves to instil curiosity and drives one to seek the answers, in the attempt to satisfy it through increased understanding. With this in mind, I’ve often wondered, what sort of world we would live in if this were truly the predominant or perhaps only emotion connected with our kind?

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

In my experience most scientists belong dominantly to either one or the other type (stage 1, 2, 3), though writing reviews and popular essays (4) typically only starts later. Shneider actually writes later in his paper that he hopes more awareness for these different stages will make it easier for people with certain characteristics to decide whether or nor they will feel welcome in a certain discipline. Best,

B.

Zephir said...

/*That's why you should kill them while they are still infants like Herod did. If a theory grows old will never really die even if it is very ill.*/
This is an oxymoron. Just the ability to survive is the only criterion of health.

Nevertheless from your approach follows, scientists of later stages of science should try to kill ideas in their first stage of evolution, thus proving their reactionary nature.

Zephir said...

BTW The proponents of 1st stage ideas aren't usually so agressive, because their theories are usually more advanced - so they can reconcile existing theories easier. This could serve as an indicia of time symmetry violation in human society.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“In my experience most scientists belong dominantly to either one or the other type (stage 1, 2, 3)...”

I understand your point, yet in truth my question was to ask, when should we consider that someone has become a scientist? Is it when they first wondered about things, as to how they are this way, or is it only when they have the tools and experience we normally associate with such a profession. I would contend that the truly great ones come from that group for whom this sense of wonder and thirst for knowledge came at a very early age; just as it is with many of the arts or even what many would consider as more usual callings, such as when one imagines themselves as a fire fighter or a nurse. I would contend often this is what distinguishes the virtuoso(s) from those merely competent; and yet as Einstein reminded in the quote offered before by Arun , all are required to make a world.

Best,

Phil

Arun said...

Giotis,

You'll end up with the Jesus-like theory that resurrects itself and enjoys eternal life. String theory a.k.a. Reggeons might be one such :)

-Arun

Plato said...

If you do not have Toposense, String Theory can indeed seem like a Religion?:)Maybe, acoustic metric might help?

There were signs in Einsteins youth "in stage one" that revealed his inclination for the rest of his life. You just had to know what triggered his journey and his predisposition. It was a "life choice" already recognized by, and was the motivation?

Each of us in our own way will have a strong memory that lays out the pathway for the future( it resonates deep within us). What was this inclination of yours and it might reveal something about your own nature? Your own nature interesting is it not?

For Einstein, it was the compass in his youth.

Imbued by that intangible nature and mystery of, is describing a direction that was appealing, and a mystery for Einstein? Just as it is for those who see value in describing the distance between Q-Q?:)

The fourth stage needs a better description, for an accumulation of all that exists for science is more then "what an ole man tells you in later life" and seems to be all washed up.

It's an arsenal of all the sciences that brings perspective together and "aged by opinion" to this point is and will be part of the revolution that falls away.

It is more then that "figuratively speaking of opinion assigned" that this old man was embodied for Einstein, was as a conduit for what his mystery, meant as a question posed that guided his life.

One assumes that "by opinion" that it is only at certain point that such productiveness will make its way, offering again that youth at stage two or three?

Nonsense, for the potential always exists, no matter the age assigned by what again is "opinion" will fall away and never become.

Even scientists are conditioned "to believe by opinion" and hence, it works it way through the social structure and is then transmitted "as ole wives or husband tales of what once was.

But, "in truth that motivation" has become something else in what is revealed in the life's work?

So where is the "ole folks home" for all those washed up scientists in stage four?:)

Zephir said...

/*..String Theory can indeed seem like a Religion..*/
String theory is indeed not a religion, just description of causual foam by using of different set postulates and equations. No less, no more.

But here's a mental barrier between theorists at lower stages of theory development and theorists, who are dealing with higher stages of older theories.

We can say, every theorist can recognize just one or two neigboring levels, i.e. causual space-times of theory development, because of general lack of mutual respect between theorists at lower stages and higher stages of theory development. Both groups tends to consider the results of the other group as a "trivial subset" of their own results and they tend to consider more advanced extrapolations a random incoherent noise. This is because they're living in energy density driven environment, where famous and social success plays a indispensable role in quality of personal life.

This can serve as an illustrative model of limited number of dimensions, which we are living in. Note that it's a string theory invention - but it can be understood by Aether concept in its entirety.

Zephir said...

/*..string theory is at the 4 stages at the same time..*/
String theory is rather heterogeneous cluster of many subtheories in different stages of evolution. I presume, more detailed analysis would reveal many inconsistencies between postulates and paradigms used. This is natural consequence of the presence of many brilliant mathematicians, who can combine equations along sharp space-time gradients, but they doesn't recognize vague connections, which would help them to navigate in landscape of postulates.

Quantum gravity is just another, younger wave of such approach, but it follows exactly the same conceptual problems, like string theory. It's basically just a lack of money, what distinguishes LQG theorists from string theorists.

Both groups are just trying to describe fluctuations of dense gas in formal way and they don't know about it, so they fight each of other in quite predictable way. And indeed, both they would fight against common protoscience enemy.

Ludwig Börne: "Pythagoras offered a hecatomb of oxen, when he discovered the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid - since then every ox trembles, when a new truth is discovered.." (Zephir: Well, it doesn't know apparently, that this hecatomb was made of flour originally..)

Zephir said...

This mutual fight between various groups of scientists just reveals, the general motivation of scientists in further research isn't the "love in science" or "natural inqiuisiteness" or "respect to Nature perfection" and other BS's - but simply selfish fight for personal selfrealization.

Science is interesting area of activity from certain aspect: while it's driven by evolutionary laws like every other human activity, it cannot admit it by aceptation of general theory, or scientists would lost their jobs and personal motivation. Therefore scientists are motivated to search for final simplest TOE, but they're prohibited to even propose it - or they risking their own jobs. It's not pleasant to reach end of your own sense of life...

This is IMO why Aether model was tabu of science for so long time.

Phil Warnell said...

I’m wondering, which level of science where being a pest who is hard of listening is most advantageous? :-)

Zephir said...

I presume, it's antiparticle science. Dirac and Cumrun Vafa believe that quantum mechanics may be reformulated in a way in which negative probabilities will become much more important. Particles living in negative subspaces are behaving like bubbles in vacuum and as such they're repelled by observable matter obstinately.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bee,
for me the first stage is very surprising. I always thought, that first stage developers of new thoughts and new science theories are the Einstein's. By the way, how has it been with Einstein in such a case ?

Strange, and very interesting

Kay

Zephir said...

Luckily (for AWT) people like single stories and they're calling it an Occam's razor..

But Mr. Einstein wasn't original inventor of Voigt's transforms (1887), which were explained by Larmour (1895) and named after Lorentz (1897, 1904) by Poincare (1905). BTW These guys were all atherists...

stefan said...

Zephir,

sorry, but larmoyant crackpot history of physics makes me hit the "delete comment" button fast...

Thanks, Stefan.

Zephir said...

Of course you can delete my posts like others - but the question is, if you can prove it wrong? I'm just pasting information commonly known from Wikipedia. Can you explain, why did you deleted it?

Bee said...

Zephir: To begin with you should come up with a source for your alleged Einstein quotation. I'm really tired of people putting words into Einstein's mouth, and this blog won't support the spread of misinformation.

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

Sorry, I'm not sure what you're saying. I'd think Einstein fits very well into stage one? Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Actually this quote offered by Zephir may belong to Einstein since I think I remember reading it in one of the many books I have which are written by him and or perhaps one by others about him. However, as a consequence I would contend this has me to know more then a little about the man, so that not surprisingly our saviour of science has taken it out of context. This in my opinion I find even more detestable, as that’s what politicians and scandal sheet reporters are so good at. I believe the source(s) that Einstein was talking about is the one that all physicists should rely on, being nature.

Best,

Phil

stefan said...

Hi Zephir,

I don't doubt at all your statements on the origin of the inverse-square law, or what is written in the Wikipedia article about this. The hellenistic origin has strongly been argued for by Lucio Russo, for example.

I don't mind either a sincere discussion about how and why people ignored to acknowledge their predecessors - Newton may have been unfair to Hooke, but he also said to have stood on the shoulders of giants.

I'm just nauseated when the standard cheap "Einstein plagiarist" pathos is blended in - that's intellectually dishonest, in my opinion, and definitely a red line for me.

Thanks, Stefan

Plato said...

God's Equation, by Amir D. Aczel, Pg 14

From a early age, young Albert showed great interest in the world around him. When he was five years old, his father gave him a compass, and the child was enchanted by the device and intrigued by the fact the needle followed a invisible field to point always in the direction of the north pole.Reminiscing in old age, Einstein mentioned this incident as one of the factors that perhaps motivated him years later to study the gravitational field. :)

Plato said...

Wikiquotes

Old One?

If it existed for Einstein "as an embodiment of meaning" then can it exist in you?

Zephir said...

/*..Newton may have been unfair to Hooke, but he also said to have stood on the shoulders of giants...*/

Well Einstein maybe didn't said "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources", but his work "On Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" is without quotations of whole generation of previous authors of Lorentz transformation at all and he even openly lied about knowledge of it later - so I don't think, this quotation is deeply inconsistent with his approach to plagiarism.

And this is just a red line for me, instead.

Zephir said...

In fact, whole scientific community was punished for its cover of Einstein's plagiarism, because it was separated from understanding, how and why is Lorentz invariance connected to Aether concept - so now it's forced to "reinvent it" again under direction of anonymous trolls from internet.

Every lie have short legs.

Zephir said...

/*..Einstein mentioned this incident as one of the factors..*/
It's well known, Einstein was deeply interested about Aether concept from his youth (so he should be familiar with every derivation of it) - but such interpretation turned out to be "politically incorrect" later.

The mainstream propaganda is quite consequential in this point, as we can see...

Bee said...

Sure, Zephir, it is certainly dramatic what misery that person Einstein has brought to the whole scientific community. It is quite amazing how many people there are who use their reading of Einstein's biography to support their own theory of swhatever. Please keep further discussion of your Aether theory and psychoanalysis of Einstein to your own blog.

Since you really seem to have a hard time understanding it, I will repeat it one more time: This blog is *not* a forum to discuss your most liked or disliked theories or your interpretation of the history of science. It is EXCLUSIVELY a place to discuss the posts we wrote. If you find that self-centered, that's exactly what it is. We're the ones writing this blog, and that's what we're talking about. To remind you: the topic of that post is a paper by Alex Shneider suggesting that science proceeds in four distinguishable stages, so could we please focus on that. When in doubt if a comment is appropriate, pleas refer to the comment rules above the "Post a Comment" link.

Thanks.

B.

Phil Warnell said...

I think our saviour of science should borrow from Newton and yet to alter:

If it is I see further, it’s because I’ve rid myself of the giants, so as to not have them obscure my view.

Bee said...

I particularly like this version though:

If I didn't see further than others, it's because giants were standing on my shoulders.

For certain another cause of arrested development ;-)

stefan said...

Hi Zephir,

thanks for bringing up the Jeroen van Dongen paper on the role of the Michelson-Morley experiment in Einstein's path to special relativity. It contains a great brief summary of this complex story, and shows nicely how complicated history and memory can be. I highly recommend to everyone interested in the history of relativity to read this short paper.

To me, calling Einsteins later statements "open lies" is at best malicious, and does contribute nothing to a sincere historical discussion. It's just hallmark of standard anti-Einstein propaganda.

Maybe we should stop this debate here - I think I have understood your point of view.

In fact, whole scientific community was punished ... it's forced to "reinvent it" again under direction of anonymous trolls from internet.

Good joke, thank you very much for sharing


Best, Stefan

Zephir said...

Hi Bee, I completely understand the tendency of every formally thinking theorist to cover, that their equations are based on emergent concept, which is difficult (if not impossible) to handle in formal math - and this logical tendency will undoubtedly continue in future. Formal theorists will always try to cover the fact, their laborious and poorly conditioned equations can be understood in dual intuitive and much more robust way in the same way, like Holy Church attempted to cover nonformal side of its scholastic.

But you believed, "Einstein fits very well into stage one", so I'm explaining you, Einstein was in fact a continuer of much more older ideas, which were abandoned later under lost of information at the price like previous generation of universe, we are living in by now. Such evolution in fact fits well supersymmetric behavior of causal foam, which LQG is dealing with - so you should be familiar with this interpretation of history for your own good.

Bee said...

What I am trying to tell you Zephir is that "continuing older ideas," which is in fact very common in science as elsewhere, doesn't diminish the achievement of bringing these ideas to a breakthrough. I'd guess for pretty much every successful idea you will find somebody who had thought about it previously, though without drawing the essential conclusions. It's all just a little bit of history repeating, as the Propellerheads tell us so wisely (definitely one of my all-time favorite songs, simply ingenious), but still history proceeds. Credit the right people for the right things. Best,

B.

Zephir said...

/*..it's just hallmark of standard anti-Einstein propaganda...*/
This is just a labeling of yours.

In my opinion Einstein was rather clever and objective scientist, which becomed a victim of his own formal relativity meme, he helped to spread out in similar way, like Schrödinger and many others etherists ("I don't like quantum mechanics and I'm sorry I ever had anything to do with it.").

It's well known, Einstein has become Aether proponent later - which has lead to end of his scientific carrier. This is definitely not the standard anti-Einstein propaganda - but attempt to illustrate subtleties of evolution of scientific ideas - which I'm rather expert in this moment, because of my interest about Aether concept. You cannot become an expert, until you consider a biased interpretations of mainstream only.

Bee said...

30 points for suggesting that Einstein, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.

stefan said...

Hi Zephir,

you cannot imagine how tired I am to hear again and again people talking about "the ether" who have understood nothing of Einstein's Leiden address. It's just boring.

Have a nice day,
Stefan

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

What I am trying to tell you Zephir is that "continuing older ideas," which is in fact very common in science as elsewhere, doesn't diminish the achievement of bringing these ideas to a breakthrough.

Yes this is an excellent point you make and one which is overlooked by many who don’t understand how science works. That is more often science is a process founded in evolution rather than revolution. For instance, with evolution itself the central idea is often attributed to Darwin, yet actually runs back to the times preceding Descartes. Quoted below is something he said in his own treatise in regards to how science should be considered and also how the nature of the world should be. I would ask our saviour of science, if this would have Darwin be a plagiarist in having extended and actually giving evidence such notions be true?

“But this is certain, and an opinion commonly received among theologians, that the action by which he now sustains it is the same with that by which he originally created it; so that even although he had from the beginning given it no other form than that of chaos, provided only he had established certain laws of nature, and had lent it his concurrence to enable it to act as it is wont to do, it may be believed, without discredit to the miracle of creation, that, in this way alone, things purely material might, in course of time, have become such as we observe them at present; and their nature is much more easily conceived when they are beheld coming in this manner gradually into existence, than when they are only considered as produced at once in a finished and perfect state.”

-Rene Descartes - Discourse on The Method: of Rightly Conducting The Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences (1637)

Best,

Phil

Zephir said...

/*..every successful idea you will find somebody who had thought about it previously..*/
That's true and in this sense last stage of scientific theory becomes a first stage of evolution of another dual idea in terms of Weyl/Lorentz projective rotation, so that history is really repeating in circles (compare the Garett's model of evolution particle generations, which can be achieved by rotation of root system of Lie group, for example).

So I do believe, we can model the evolution of advanced ideas by particle models of Universe evolution and vice-versa.

/*..though without drawing the essential conclusions..*/
It's true again usually - though many essential conclusions were simply silenced by mainstream. It's quite apparent at the case of dense Aether concept, which was in fact part of textbooks before relativity has started its "success".

Zephir said...

/*..is more often science is a process founded in evolution rather than revolution..*/
It depends on the observational perspective. We can compare it to the event horizon of black holes, which appears sharp boundary from distance - but from proximity it becomes just a transparent gradient of vacuum density/space-time curvature. I presume, this is a factual basis of creationistic trends in society in opposition to gradualist evolution, and creationistic intepretation of history of relativity evolution, as presented by mainstream by now.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bee,

I think so too, that Einstein fits very well into stage one.

Best

Kay

Zephir said...

/*..who have understood nothing of Einstein's Leiden address...*/
Lets the humble readers to decide it, OK?

Concerning the quotation of crackpot index, I'm really tired by demonstrations of its analogy to Malleus Maleficarum, instead. It's not accidental, every sectarian community will develop it's own formal tool for distinguishing of crackpots from "politically correct" people without deeper analysis of their subject.

History just repeats in this point, too.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Kay,

Not so much to disagree with you or Bee, yet I understand Einstein not only as a man of stage one but rather one of all stages. I would be so bold as to say as with Plato, Aristotle, Confucius and some others he was a person for all ages, since his search for truth extended beyond what reason could tell us about the physical world, yet also how it could be extended to having it become a better one and what role a scientist has to play in all this.

Best,

Phil

Zephir said...

In certain sense Einstein was first relativist and latest aetherist of his time. Note his sympathy toward Aether concept and his skepticim concerning black hole singularity and gravitational waves concepts. This skepticism can be understood/explained easily in dense aether concept.

If mainstream science would be at least as critical to its results, as Mr. Einstein did, history of relativity would evolve in much more unbiased, i.e. scientific way.

Bee said...

Zephir: You have entirely misunderstood why referrals to Einstein's interests trigger suspicion in what you call the "sectarian community." It's an appeal to authority that is irrelevant to the scientific content of a theory and thus no decent scientist would use as an argument in favor of his theory. (That is not to say it might not have served as an inspiration of course.)

Arun said...

Going over the Jeroen Van Dongen paper, I was struck by the seeming fact that not only real experiments are increasingly difficult in the cutting edge of physics; useful thought experiments are also scarce.

Or am I mistaken about thought experiments?

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Stefan,

Thanks very much for pointing to this Jeropen Van Dongen paper. It now has become part of my always growing collection in respect to Einstein. As from my own perspective, as to be honest, I never understood what all the fuss was about in the first place, as being SR can be seen from the Lamour-Lorentz-Poincare perspective without the necessity to insist there be an aether. This was best brought to light in a paper by J.S. Bell entitled “ How to Teach Special Relativity” and can be found in his famous “Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics”.

In this paper he demonstrates that the difference between one approach and the other purely stems from a difference in style and a difference of philosophy, yet in the end neither can be empirically shown to be better than the other and therefore in essence equivalent. Bell in this paper so clearly and correctly points out that Einstein was one convinced that nature was founded on unshakeable principles; while the Lamour-Lorentz-Poincare approach is the product of those having physics to discover merely relationships, that when fit and taken together allows us to predict how things behave. To be frank I’m more sympathetic with Einstein, yet fully acknowledge that as of yet this is nothing more than simply philosophy. I would also agree that to fully appreciate SR, one should consider upon and understand it from where and whence it came. To quote Bell at the end of the paper:

“There is no intention here to make any reservations whatsoever about the power and precision of Einstein’s approach. But in my opinion there is something to be said for taking students along the longer road made by Fitzgerald, Lamor, Lorentz and Poincare. The longer road sometimes gives more familiarity with the country.”

Best,

Phil

Anonymous said...

"Progress is not made from conference to conference, but from funeral to funeral".....?

"Science progresses by the old professors dying off."..Schumpeter?

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convining its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."...Max Planck

lysander