Project #88547 - Imperial Physics - Merton

LESSON INTRO:

300WORDS

Last week we appreciated how British and French science works. Especially focusing on the role of Carnot and Maxwell. We got to know the cultural indices of science, how society influences science and vice-versa.

Maxwell and Carnot (as one of you stated) both changed the physics scene in their respective countries. Maxwell changed how British physicists thought about electricity, magnetism, light, forces, and energy. Carnot changed how French physicists thought about heat, caloric, energy dissipation, and entropy. Maxwell’s theories revolutionized his field within his lifetime, but Carnot’s theories were not appreciated until scientists built upon his ideas after his death.Maxwell made British physicists stop thinking in terms of Newtonian forces and start thinking in terms of energy and the ether. “The new doctrine of energy was also at the heart of James Clerk Maxwell’s attempt to construct a comprehensive theory of electromagnetism from Faraday’s experimental researches and scattered speculations” (Morus 80). He theorized that magnetism, electricity, and light were all made of the same energy which acted upon the ether--an unseen substance that filled the universe and provided a frame of reference for motion and direction. Because of Maxwell’s equations demonstrating that light, electricity, and magnetism were made of the same energy, scientists realized the principle of energy conservation, or that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Carnot contributions to science would later be built upon by other scientists to define the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Morus writes that “William Thomson . . . used Carnot’s theories and Joule’s experiments to make the science of thermodynamics the exemplar of a whole new way of doing physics. Thermodynamics could demonstrate how the Universe would end in heat death. It could also be used to pour scorn on the claims of geologists and evolutionary theorists concerning the development of life on earth” (126).

 

But as another of you also pointed out very thoughtfully that:

“The work of James Clerk Maxwell changed the world forever.” (Albert Einstein) James Clerk Maxwell was brought up with traditional Christian beliefs. His mother took the role of being the sole provider to Maxwell’s education during his childhood. “His mother taught him to see God’s scientific genius and compassionate hand in the beauties of nature. This conviction that there was complete harmony between scientific investigation and God’s teachings in the Bible had a great influence on James’ life and work.”James Maxwell was one of the world’s most influential scientist. He devoted much of his work to electricity and magnetism. He was committed to creating the mathematical equations to explain English physicist Michael Faraday’s Electromagnetic Waves field theory. “The four mathematical equations Maxwell produced are ranked with Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity as the most fundamental contributions to physics.” (Lamont, 1993). “Some of Maxwell's results prompted Albert Einstein's research in relativity. Einstein is quoted as saying: “One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell.””  In addition, Maxwell paved the foundation for modern Quantum mechanics and special relativity.“Maxwell worked with Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann to develop a theory called the 'Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution’.” It is defined as particles moving freely in a confined space without distributing the other particles movements except for slight touch of one another that leads to kinetic energy being created with each other or their surroundings. This theory was later re-established with Maxwell’s paper ‘On the Dynamical Theory of Gases’. He modifies the molecules speeds and their force in proportion to their distance from one another. This paper generated the gas laws. These ideas were later resolved with more adequate solutions when quantum theory provided an explanation. “His fourth paper, inspired by the work of Boltzmann, took a very generalized approach to the properties of dynamical systems and applied statistical techniques to considering the probability of the system being in a particular state.” 

This leads to the fashion in which science and scientists performed at the turn-of-the-century from 19th to the 20th. Morus coins the phrase "Imperial Physics". Think about how appropriate is  this phrase for 19th century science. 

 

LESSON QUESTIONS:

Read Morus Chap 9.

Read Merton article.

And answer either of the following questions:

1) How appropriate/problematic is Morus' coinage of the term "Imperial Physics" to describe 19th century science?

OR

2) Explain the meaning of Merton's four norms of science and why did it matter for the history of science in late 1930s?

Finish the readings assigned for this week by Oct 21st, and by the end of business on Oct 22nd respond to any of the following questions in 300 words:

By October 24th, post an approximately 200 word reply to any colleagues' post and explore what were the strengths and weaknesses of that post?

 

Subject Science
Due By (Pacific Time) 10/22/2015 11:00 pm
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