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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science

Alistair M C Isaac
Psychophysics measures the attributes of perceptual experience. The question of whether some of these attributes should be interpreted as more fundamental, or "real," than others has been answered differently throughout its history. The operationism of Stevens and Boring answers "no," reacting to the perceived vacuity of earlier debates about fundamentality. The subsequent rise of multidimensional scaling (MDS) implicitly answers "yes" in its insistence that psychophysical data be represented in spaces of low dimensionality...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Daniel Jon Mitchell
This re-examination of the earliest version of Maxwell's most important argument for the electromagnetic theory of light-the equality between the speed of wave propagation in the electromagnetic ether and the ratio of electrostatic to electromagnetic measures of electrical quantity-establishes unforeseen connections between Maxwell's theoretical electrical metrology and his mechanical theory of the electromagnetic field. Electrical metrology was not neutral with respect to field-theoretic versus action-at-a-distance conceptions of electro-magnetic interaction...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Terry Quinn
At the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in November 2018, it is planned to adopt a new definition of the International System of Units, SI, based on the fixed numerical values of seven defining constants, broadly the fundamental constants of physics. This will be the culmination of more than two hundred years of metrology, instantiating for the first time the original ideas of the creators of the metric system. The key is the replacement of the present definition of the unit of mass, the kilogram artefact of platinum-iridium, by one based on a fixed numerical value of the Planck constant...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Isobel Falconer
In 1877 James Clerk Maxwell and his student Donald MacAlister refined Henry Cavendish's 1773 null experiment demonstrating the absence of electricity inside a charged conductor. This null result was a mathematical prediction of the inverse square law of electrostatics, and both Cavendish and Maxwell took the experiment as verifying the law. However, Maxwell had already expressed absolute conviction in the law, based on results of Michael Faraday's. So, what was the value to him of repeating Cavendish's experiment? After assessing whether the law was as secure as he claimed, this paper explores its central importance to the electrical programme that Maxwell was pursuing...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Leah McClimans, John Browne, Stefan Cano
In the last decade much has been made of the role that models play in the epistemology of measurement. Specifically, philosophers have been interested in the role of models in producing measurement outcomes. This discussion has proceeded largely within the context of the physical sciences, with notable exceptions considering measurement in economics. However, models also play a central role in the methods used to develop instruments that purport to quantify psychological phenomena. These methods fall under the umbrella term 'psychometrics'...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Alessandra Basso
This paper distinguishes between two arguments based on measurement robustness and defends the epistemic value of robustness for the assessment of measurement reliability. I argue that the appeal to measurement robustness in the assessment of measurement is based on a different inferential pattern and is not exposed to the same objections as the no-coincidence argument which is commonly associated with the use of robustness to corroborate individual results. This investigation sheds light on the precise meaning of reliability that emerges from measurement assessment practice...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Luca Mari, Paolo Carbone, Alessandro Giordani, Dario Petri
Measurement is widely applied because its results are assumed to be more reliable than opinions and guesses, but this reliability is sometimes justified in a stereotyped way. After a critical analysis of such stereotypes, a structural characterization of measurement is proposed, as partly empirical and partly theoretical process, by showing that it is in fact the structure of the process that guarantees the reliability of its results. On this basis the role and the structure of background knowledge in measurement and the justification of the conditions of object-relatedness ("objectivity") and subject-independence ("intersubjectivity") of measurement are specifically discussed...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Eran Tal
Calibration procedures establish a reliable relation between the final states ('indications') of a measurement process and features of the objects being measured ('outcomes'). This article analyzes the inferential structure of calibration procedures. I show that calibration is a modelling activity, namely the activity of constructing, deriving predictions from, and testing theoretical and statistical models of a measurement process. Measurement outcomes are parameter value ranges that maximize the predictive accuracy and mutual coherence of such models, among other desiderata...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Nadine de Courtenay, Fabien Grégis
The way metrologists conceive of measurement has undergone a major shift in the last two decades. This shift can in great part be traced to a change in the statistical methods used to deal with the expression of measurement results, and, more particularly, with the calculation of measurement uncertainties. Indeed, as we show, the incapacity of the frequentist approach to the calculus of uncertainty to deal with systematic errors has prompted the replacement of the customary frequentist methods by fully Bayesian procedures...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Klaus Ruthenberg, Hasok Chang
This paper provides an account of early historical developments in the characterization and quantification of acidity, which may be considered preliminary steps leading to the measurement of acidity. In this "pre-history" of acidity measurement, emphasis is laid on the relative independence of the rich empirical knowledge about acids from theories of acidity. Many attempts were made to compare and assess the strengths of various acids, based on concrete laboratory operations. However, at least until the arrival of the pH measure, the quantification attempts failed to produce anything qualifying as a measurement scale of a recognizable type...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Teru Miyake
This paper examines the history of two related problems concerning earthquakes, and the way in which a theoretical advance was involved in their resolution. The first problem is the development of a physical, as opposed to empirical, scale for measuring the size of earthquakes. The second problem is that of understanding what happens at the source of an earthquake. There was a controversy about what the proper model for the seismic source mechanism is, which was finally resolved through advances in the theory of elastic dislocations...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Daniel Jon Mitchell, Eran Tal, Hasok Chang
This special issue consists of selected papers arising from the interdisciplinary conference "The Making of Measurement" held at the University of Cambridge on 23-24 July 2015. In this introduction, we seek ways to further productive interactions among historical, philosophical, and sociological approaches to the study of measurement without attempting to lay out a prescriptive program for a field of "measurement studies." We ask where science studies has led us, and answer: from the function to the making of measurement...
October 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Boris Jardine
Paper occupies a special place in histories of knowledge. It is the substrate of communication, the stuff of archives, the bearer of marks that make worlds. For the early-modern period in particular we now have a wealth of studies of 'paper tools', of the ways in which archives were assembled and put to use, of the making of lists and transcribing of observations, and so on. In other fields, too, attention has turned to the materiality of information. How far is it possible to draw a stable methodology out of the insights of literary and book historians, bibliographers, anthropologists, and those working in media studies? Do these diverse fields in fact refer to the same thing when they talk of paper, its qualities, affordances and limitations? In attempting to answer these questions, the present essay begins in the rich territory of early-modern natural philosophy - but from there opens out to take in recent works in a range of disciplines...
August 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Aaron Sidney Wright
This article is about structural realism, historical continuity, laws of nature, and ceteris paribus clauses. Fresnel's Laws of optics support Structural Realism because they are a scientific structure that has survived theory change. However, the history of Fresnel's Laws which has been depicted in debates over realism since the 1980s is badly distorted. Specifically, claims that J. C. Maxwell or his followers believed in an ontologically-subsistent electromagnetic field, and gave up the aether, before Einstein's annus mirabilis in 1905 are indefensible...
August 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Samuel Schindler
Perhaps the strongest argument for scientific realism, the no-miracles-argument, has been said to commit the so-called base rate fallacy. The apparent elusiveness of the base rate of true theories has even been said to undermine the rationality of the entire realism debate. On the basis of the Kuhnian picture of theory choice, I confront this challenge by arguing that a theory is likely to be true if it possesses multiple theoretical virtues and is embraced by numerous scientists-even when the base rate converges to zero...
August 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Sindhuja Bhakthavatsalam
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
August 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Jamie Shaw
The near consensus in the secondary literature on Feyerabend is that his epistemological anarchism, characterized by the slogan 'anything goes', was not a positive proposal but the conclusion of a reductio argument against his opponents (Lloyd 1997; Staley 1999; Munévar 2000; Farrell 2003; Tsou 2003; Oberheim 2006; Roe 2009). This makes anarchism a mere criticism rather than a substantive position in its own right. In this paper, I argue that Feyerabend held anarchism as a positive thesis. Specifically, I present two possible interpretations of anarchism: one where anarchism is entailed by Feyerabend's radical view of pluralism and another where scientists must be 'methodological opportunists', which Feyerabend held simultaneously from at least 1970...
August 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Yukinori Onishi
Most scientific realists today in one way or another confine the object of their commitment to certain components of a successful theory and thereby seek to make realism compatible with the history of theory change. Kyle Stanford calls this move by realists the strategy of selective confirmation and raises a challenge against its contemporary, reliable applicability. In this paper, I critically examine Stanford's inductive argument that is based on past scientists' failures to identify the confirmed components of their contemporary theories...
August 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Daniel Špelda
In the eighteenth century, the historiography of astronomy was part of a wider discussion concerning the history of the human spirit. The concept of the human spirit was very popular among Enlightenment authors because it gave the history of human knowledge continuity, unity and meaning. Using this concept, scientists and historians of science such as Montucla, Lalande, Bailly and Laplace could present the history of astronomy in terms of a progress towards contemporary science that was slow and could be interrupted at times, but was still constant, regular, and necessary...
June 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Sven Ove Hansson
Science denialism poses a serious threat to human health and the long-term sustainability of human civilization. Although it has recently been rather extensively discussed, this discussion has rarely been connected to the extensive literature on pseudoscience and the science-pseudoscience demarcation. This contribution argues that science denialism should be seen as one of the two major forms of pseudoscience, alongside of pseudotheory promotion. A detailed comparison is made between three prominent forms of science denialism, namely relativity theory denialism, evolution denialism, and climate science denialism...
June 2017: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
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