On The Nature Of Scientific Theories

I was reading the delightful blog Ask A Mathematician / Ask A Physicist (in particular, this post), when I encountered this noteworthy comment (and this one) from one of that blog’s readers. The post is about why the earth orbits the sun, and the essence of the two comments is that science is unable to … Read more

Doubt Is Essential For The Progress Of Science

I am sometimes confronted by religious zealots (some of whom knock on my door). Typically what follows is a fruitless discussion along these lines: How do you know what you’re saying is true? Because it says so in my holy book. And how do you know that what is in your holy book is true? … Read more

Clever Hans, The Horse Who Could Do Arithmetics

One reads in elementary science textbooks about “The Scientific Method“, as if there were only one. But even if there are as many methods as scientists, it is nevertheless possible to single out certain common good habits of scientific thought. The story of Clever Hans, the horse reputed for his seeming ability to solve arithmetics … Read more

What Is A Scientific Theory?

How does science work? (At least in the case of physics and other mathematical sciences.) I touched on this subject before (in a post entitled Does Nature “Obey” The Laws Of Physics?), but I would like to take a more general perspective here. So how does science work? First you observe the world, and you … Read more

Does Nature “Obey” The Laws of Physics?

Today I’d like to discuss a pet peeve of mine. In many physics textbooks, one reads phrases such as: a certain physical system obeys a certain law of physics Here’s an example taken from page 147 of Chemical Principles, by Steven S. Zumdahl, Cengage, 2009 (although I am not trying to single out this author … Read more