Saturday, November 14, 2015

Theory Decides What We Can Observe

The ancients often though of the objects in our world being composed of a combination of air, earth, fire, water, and the void/ether - the Four Elements Theory.  Chinese thinkers theorized about the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water.   The Greek Epircureans were materialists who thought objects were composed of atoms.  Some speculated about Eight Elements.  In the 21st century, we talk about 118 Elements. 

"In the end, it's probably impossible to tease out whether the heads or tails of science, the theory or the experiment, has done more to push science ahead." (DS, p36).  

"It is theory that decides what we can observe."
-  Albert Einstein

"Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object."
-  Charles Sanders Pierce

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements  By Sam Kean.  Little, Brown and Company, 2010.  400 pages.  ISBN: 978-0316051644.  VSCL.  Subjects: Chemistry, Periodic Table, Science, Elements.  This book is an interesting, informative, and well written book I read a few years ago.  

The modern sciences of physics and chemistry have discovered or synthesized 118 Elements.  This fascinating subject can be studied through the graphical model of the Periodic Table of Elements first conceived in 1869 by the Russian chemist, Dmitri Medneleev.  Read the "Disappearing Spoon" for the fascinating story of the Table of the Elements. 


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