Scientists are skeptical

2011-05-08

in Geek stuff, Science

Gravity Probe B should serve as an object lesson for those who claim that scientists are content to accept longstanding scientific theories without question. One of the major purposes for the satellite is to test aspects of Albert Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

anon May 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Einstein’s theory of relativity is problematized in the traditional Khunian way by being in contradiction with our best theory of very small things.

Milan May 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Yes, quantum mechanics and relatively cannot be reconciled at this point in time. What I am saying with this post is that scientists are working on it. They don’t just accept that Einstein was right, but are still actively involved in evaluating subtle aspects of his theory 95 years after the fact.

anon May 11, 2011 at 4:52 am

According to the Kuhnian hypothesis, if quantum mechanics (or some other primary theory) were reconciled with relativity, there would be no research being done evaluating the truth of the relativistic paradigm. This situation is not a counter example.

Milan May 11, 2011 at 8:19 am

I didn’t say the existence of Gravity Probe B rebuts Kuhn.

I am pointing out how one distinguishing feature of science is that practitioners are always actively involved in evaluating the key theoretical elements of their discipline. It’s encouraging, and a major reason why scientific theories get more accurate across time.

anon May 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Your argument is a hasty generalization.

“Scientists are actively involved in evaluating area X”

therefore

“Scientists always actively involved in evaluating the key theoretical elements of their discipline”

Or, to be precise, it’s either a hasty generalization, or it begs the question because “key theoretical elements” is defined in terms of those theoretical elements which scientists are actively involved in evaluating.

Milan May 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm

So, you don’t think the existence of a $750 million satellite designed to test aspects of general relativity indicates that scientists are actively involved in refining their most important ideas about how the universe works?

anon May 12, 2011 at 6:02 am

How you decide which ideas about how the “universe works” are “most important”?

Milan May 12, 2011 at 8:06 am

Ones with considerable explanatory power?

For instance, general relativity substantially deepens our understanding of the history of the universe and how it operates now. The same is true of quantum mechanics, genetics and evolutionary biology, and other key scientific theories.

Other criteria could be theories that enable technologies (as relativity enables GPS positioning, quantum mechanics is involved in optical applications, genetics has health applications, etc).

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