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Science in Context

Kenji Ito
ArgumentThis paper discusses one aspect of the context in which atomic physics developed in Japan between 1905 and 1931. It argues that during this period, there was a social context in which atomic physics was valued as a study of the electron and was thus relevant to electrical engineering. To demonstrate this, I first show that after the Russo-Japanese War, electrical engineering was deemed a valuable and viable field of research in Japan. Second, I show that physicists wrote textbooks and popular accounts about the electron, covering topics from both atomic physics and electrical engineering and presenting the former as relevant to the latter...
September 2018: Science in Context
Shaul Katzir
Historians, philosophers, and physicists portray the 1920s and 1930s as a period of major theoretical breakthrough in physics, quantum mechanics, which led to the expansion of physics into the core of the atom and the growth and strengthening of the discipline. These important developments in scientific inquiry into the micro-world and light have turned historical attention away from other significant historical processes and from other equally important causes for the expansion of physics. World War II, on the other hand, is often seen as the watershed moment when physics achieved new levels of social and technical engagement at a truly industrial scale...
September 2018: Science in Context
Shaul Katzir
ArgumentConcentrating on the important developments of quantum physics, historians have overlooked other significant forces that shaped interwar physics, like that of technology. Based on the case of piezoelectricity, I argue that interests of users of technics (i.e. devices of methods) channeled research in physics into particular fields and questions relevant for industrial companies and governmental agencies. To recognize the effects of such social forces on physics, one needs to study the content of the scientific activity (both experimental and theoretical) of the researchers within its social and disciplinary contexts...
September 2018: Science in Context
Richard Staley
ArgumentThis paper examines some of the ways that machines, mechanisms, and the new mechanics were treated in post-World War I discourse. Spengler's 1919 Decline of the West and Hessen's 1931 study of Newton have usually been tied closely to Weimar culture in Germany, and Soviet politics. Linking them also to the writings of Rathenau, Simmel, Chase, Mumford, Hayek, and others, as well as to Dada and film studies of the city will indicate central features of a wide-ranging, international discourse on the machine and mechanization...
September 2018: Science in Context
Jaume Navarro
ArgumentThe discovery of electron diffraction by George Paget Thomson in Aberdeen and Clinton J. Davisson and Lester H. Germer at the Bell Labs has often been portrayed as an example of independent discovery. Neither team was particularly interested in the developments of the nascent quantum theory but they both ended up demonstrating one of the most striking experimental consequences of the new physics. This paper traces the aftermath of this discovery and the way electron diffraction immediately turned from empirical evidence of a highly novel theory into a technique for applied and technological research...
September 2018: Science in Context
Michael Eckert
ArgumentDuring the interwar period research on turbulence met with interest from different areas: in aeronautical engineering turbulence became a subject of experimental study in wind tunnels; in naval architecture and hydraulic engineering turbulence research was on the agenda because of its role for skin friction; applied mathematicians and theoretical physicists struggled with the problem to determine the onset of turbulence from the fundamental hydrodynamic equations; experimental physicists developed techniques to measure the velocity fluctuations of turbulent flows...
September 2018: Science in Context
María de Paz
ArgumentThis paper aims at understanding the concept of convention in mechanics as a notion transferred from the field of jurisprudence. This enables us to clarify it as a new epistemic category having a pertinent role in the transformation of mechanics in the nineteenth century. Such understanding permits a separation from linguistic and arbitrary conventions, thus highlighting its epistemic features and not transforming fundamental principles into mere arbitrary agreements. After addressing the main references in the literature discussing the role of convention in mechanics, we analyze its classical use as a concept originating from law...
June 2018: Science in Context
André Goddu
ArgumentLudwik Antoni Birkenmajer (1855-1929), following along the paths pioneered by Leopold Prowe, Maximilian Curtze, Franz Hipler, and J. L. E. Dreyer, joined them as trailblazers of Copernican scholarship in the nineteenth century. Educated in the classics and mathematics, Birkenmajer began by examining more closely the Cracow background to Copernicus's development and studying his works and annotations in books he owned or read. Birkenmajer contributed many discoveries that eventually became common knowledge, and his studies loomed over Polish research on Copernicus into the 1970s...
June 2018: Science in Context
Yulia Frumer
ArgumentAn unusual compass, on which east and west are reversed, provides insight into the dynamics guiding our understanding of artifacts. By examining how such compasses were used in Tokugawa Japan (1600-1868), the benefits they brought, and how users knew how to read them, this article uncovers the cognitive factors that shape our interaction with technology. Building on the methodological approach of the distributed cognition theory, the article claims that reverse compasses allowed the user to conserve cognitive effort, which was particularly advantageous to Tokugawa-period mariners...
June 2018: Science in Context
Fernando Vidal
Argument "Deficit model" designates an outlook on the public understanding and communication of science that emphasizes scientific illiteracy and the need to educate the public. Though criticized, it is still widespread, especially among scientists. Its persistence is due not only to factors ranging from scientists' training to policy design, but also to the continuance of realism as an aesthetic criterion. This article examines the link between realism and the deficit model through discussions of neurology and psychiatry in fiction film, as well as through debates about historical movies and the cinematic adaptation of literature...
March 2018: Science in Context
Carlos Tabernero
Argument Franco's fascist regime in Spain (1939-1975) offers the possibility of exploring the complex relationship between media communication practices and the processes of production, circulation, and management of knowledge. The regime persistently used film, and later on television, as indoctrination and disciplining devices. These media thus served to shape the regime's representation, which largely relied on the generation of positive attitudes of adherence to the rulers through people's submission and obedience to experts...
March 2018: Science in Context
Kirsten Ostherr
Argument The deficit model of science communication assumes that the creation and dissemination of knowledge is limited to researchers with formal credentials. Recent challenges to this model have emerged among "e-patients" who develop extensive online activist communities, demand access to their own health data, conduct crowd-sourced experiments, and "hack" health problems that traditional medical experts have failed to solve. This article explores the aesthetics of medical media that enact the transition from a deficit model to a patient-driven model of visual representation and health communication...
March 2018: Science in Context
Felicity Mellor
Argument Among the many limitations of the deficit model of science communication is its inability to account for the qualities of communication products that arise from creative decisions about form and style. This paper examines two documentaries about the nature of time - Patricio Guzmán's Nostalgia for the Light and the first episode of the BBC's Wonders of the Universe series - in order to consider how film style inflects science with different meanings. The analysis pays particular attention to the ways in which authority is assigned between film author, narrator, and depicted subjects and the degree to which different film styles promote epistemological certainty or hesitancy...
March 2018: Science in Context
Eleanor Louson
Argument I argue through an analysis of spectacle that the relationship between wildlife documentary films' entertainment and educational mandates is complex and co-constitutive. Accuracy-based criticism of wildlife films reveals assumptions of a deficit model of science communication and positions spectacle as an external commercial pressure influencing the genre. Using the Planet Earth (2006) series as a case study, I describe spectacle's prominence within the recent blue-chip renaissance in wildlife film, resulting from technological innovations and twenty-first-century consumer and broadcast market contexts...
March 2018: Science in Context
David A Kirby
Argument As the deficit model's failure leaves scientists searching for more effective communicative approaches, science communication scholars have begun promoting narrative as a potent persuasive tool. Narratives can help the public make choices by setting out a scientific issue's contexts, establishing the stakes involved, and offering potential solutions. However, employing narrative for persuasion risks embracing the same top-down communication approach underlying deficit model thinking. This essay explores the parallels between movie censorship and the current use of narrative to influence public opinion by examining how the Hays Office and the Catholic Legion of Decency responded to science in movies...
March 2018: Science in Context
Fernando Vidal
Science in film, and usual equivalents such as science on film or science on screen, refer to the cinematographic representation, staging, and enactment of actors, information, and processes involved in any aspect or dimension of science and its history. Of course, boundaries are blurry, and films shot as research tools or documentation also display science on screen. Nonetheless, they generally count as scientific film, and science in and on film or screen tend to designate productions whose purpose is entertainment and education...
March 2018: Science in Context
Luca Guzzardi
Argument According to a long-standing interpretation which traces back to Max Jammer's Concepts of Force (1957), Ruggiero G. Boscovich would have developed a concept of force in the tradition of Leibniz's dynamics. In his variation on the theme, basic properties of matter such as solidity or impenetrability would be derived from an interplay of some "active" force of attraction and repulsion that any primary element of nature ("point of matter" in Boscovich's theory) would possess. In the present paper I discuss many flaws of this interpretation and argue for an alternative point of view, according to which the crucial aspect in the development of Boscovich's natural philosophy is his early definition of forces as "mathematical determinations" to have a certain state of motion...
December 2017: Science in Context
Tom Quick
Argument This paper arrives at a normative position regarding the relevance of Henri Bergson's philosophy to historical enquiry. It does so via experimental historical analysis of the adaptation of cinematographic devices to physiological investigation. Bergson's philosophy accorded well with a mode of physiological psychology in which claims relating to mental and physiological existence interacted. Notably however, cinematograph-centered experimentation by British physiologists including Charles Scott Sherrington, as well as German-trained psychologists such as Hugo Münsterberg and Max Wertheimer, contributed to a cordoning-off of psychological from physiological questioning during the early twentieth century...
December 2017: Science in Context
Joseph D Martin
Argument Why do similar scientific enterprises garner unequal public approbation? High energy physics attracted considerable attention in the late-twentieth-century United States, whereas condensed matter physics - which occupied the greater proportion of US physicists - remained little known to the public, despite its relevance to ubiquitous consumer technologies. This paper supplements existing accounts of this much remarked-upon prestige asymmetry by showing that popular emphasis on the mundane technological offshoots of condensed matter physics and its focus on human-scale phenomena have rendered it more recondite than its better-known sibling field...
December 2017: Science in Context
Marta Hanson
Argument This article analyzes for the first time the earliest western maps of diseases in China spanning fifty years from the late 1870s to the end of the 1920s. The 24 featured disease maps present a visual history of the major transformations in modern medicine from medical geography to laboratory medicine wrought on Chinese soil. These medical transformations occurred within new political formations from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) to colonialism in East Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Manchuria, Korea) and hypercolonialism within China (Tianjin, Shanghai, Amoy) as well as the new Republican Chinese nation state (1912-49)...
September 2017: Science in Context
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