Posts Tagged ‘Maxwell’

5 Maxwell

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

James Clerk Maxwell was able to create the definitive mathematical model for electromagnetism only because he thought of the problem mechanically, a fact that is all but lost today. Maxwell felt that electromagnetic phenomena were events that take place in a background medium. Towards the start of his famous ‘Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism’, he wrote (more…)

3 Good and Bad Science

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

For one hundred years the ideas of physics have proved resilient to a structured, rigorous approach. Indeed, for at least the past half-century lecturers have in the main encouraged new students of physics to by-pass such analysis when it conflicts with established theory, and they even talk positively of ‘suspension of disbelief’. But leaving one’s critical faculties at the door is no way to do science.

How science works and what it can achieve at its very best is seen in the work of Darwin, who took on the fundamental metaphysical truth of his age – that humans beings and their most private desires are beyond the ken of science – and won. He saw with clarity a most important fact about the inheritance of characteristics and then subjected his ideas to detailed testing.

For some it is a heresy to suggest that human beings evolved from the primordial slime, but the scientific evidence and argument is overwhelming. Darwin showed us more than our distant ancestry; he demonstrated that science is capable of producing other than a succession of passing theories. It can, and in the case of evolution does, uncover a deep and enduring understanding.

The nature of truly successful science is also seen in Mendel, a painstaking experimental scientist (more…)