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2012–2013 Colloquia

Spring 2013

January 25, 2013, 275 Nicholson Hall
Author Meets Readers

"Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live"
Author: Marlene Zuk, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota
Readers: Susan Craddock, Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota
and Michael Wilson, Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota
abstract

February 1, 2013, 131 Tate

"The Vision of Cecil Rhodes: Technology, Space, and Power in Africa."
William Storey
, Department of History, Millsaps College
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

February 8, 2013, 131 Tate

"How Did Practice Lead to Theory in Emil Fischer's Work?"
Catherine Jackson
, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

February 15, 2013, 3:30 pm
1-132 Carlson School of Management
***Note change of venue***

"Voluntarism and Scepticism Regarding Scientific Knowledge"
Anjan Chakravartty
, Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame
abstract
Co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy

February 22, 2013, 131 Tate

"Space-Time, Death-Resurrection, and the Russian Revolution: Alexander
Friedman and the Origins of Big Bang Cosmology"
Alexei Kojevnikov
, Department of History, The Uniiversity of British Columbia
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

March 1, 2013, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Abstract explanations in science and mathematics"
Chris Pincock
,
Department of Philosophy, Ohio State University
abstract

March 8, 2013, 131 Tate

"A Bird in Hand: Craft, Data, and Hope in Wildlife Biology"
Kristoffer Whitney
, Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

March 15, 2013 no colloquium

March 22, 2013 no colloquium

March 29, 2013, 131 Tate

"Engineering 'Manpower' Crisis and the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education"
Atsushi Akera
, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7:00 pm
Cowles Auditorium, Hubert Humphrey Center
***Note change of time and venue***

"The Search For Consciousness:
Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State"
Adrian Owen
, The Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario
abstract
Public Lecture co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, the Center for BioEthics and the Department of Psychology

April 5, 2013, 12:15 pm
2-690 Moos Tower
***Note change of time and venue***

"Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State:
 Ethical Challenges and Scientific Solution"
Adrian Owen, The Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario
abstract
Co-sponsored by the Center for BioEthics

April 5, 2013, 275 Nicholson Hall 3:35 pm

"When Thoughts Become Actions:
Functional Neuroimaging in Disorders of Consciousness"
Adrian Owen
, The Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario
abstract
Co-sponsored by the Department of Psychology

***CANCELED***April 12, 2013, 131 Tate

"Animal Orders:
Science, Nature, and Imperialism in Victorian Children's Fantasy Literature"
Carolyn Sigler
, Department of English, University of Minnesota, Duluth
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

April 19, 2013, 131 Tate

"Don’t Panic!
The 'Excited and Terrified Public Mind' from Yellow Fever to Bioterrorism"
Amy Fairchild
, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Medicine

April 26, 2013, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Are We Breaking the Ivory Ceiling? Women and Minorities in Philosophy and STEM Disciplines"
Sally Haslanger
, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Background reading (three short articles) can be downloaded here

This event has been designated by the Office of the Vice President for Research to satisfy the Awareness/Discussion component of the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) continuing education requirement.
abstract

May 3, 2013, 131 Tate

"Chronicle of an Epidemic Foretold: The Fall and Rise of Tuberculosis in Post-War New York City"
James Colgrove,
Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Medicine

May 10, 2013, 131 Tate

"Epistemic genres or styles of thinking? Tools for the cultural histories of knowledge"
Gianna Pomata
, Institute of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Medicine

Abstracts for Spring 2013

Marlene Zuk Author Meets Readers "Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live"
Abstract: We evolved to eat berries rather than bagels, to live in mud huts rather than condos, to run barefoot rather than play football—or did we? Are our bodies and brains truly at odds with modern life? And has evolution stopped for us?  Although it may seem as though we have barely had time to shed our hunter-gatherer legacy, Marlene Zuk reveals that the story is not so simple. Popular theories about how our ancestors lived—and why we should emulate them—are often based on speculation, not scientific evidence.  What really matters is the rate of evolution, which is sometimes fast and sometimes slow.  Instead of trying to live like cavemen, we need to understand that process.

Anjan Chakravartty "Voluntarism and Scepticism Regarding Scientific Knowledge"
Abstract: Epistemological disputes in the philosophy of science often  focus on the question of how minimalist or expansive one should be in interpreting the claims of our best theories. Some empiricists, for example, only countenance belief in the observable content of these theories, while realists of different sorts extend belief, in incompatible ways, to strictly unobservable entities, events, and processes. I analyze these disputes in terms of differences regarding where to draw a line between domains in which one has warrant for belief and those in which one should suspend belief and thus remain sceptical, by considering and defending the idea that the precise location of this line is subject to a form of epistemic voluntarism.

Chris Pincock "Abstract explanations in science and mathematics"
Abstract: This paper develops a generalized notion of difference-making that allows for non-causal sorts of dependence. This leads to a class of explanations that I call abstract explanations. Abstract explanations involve an appeal to a more abstract entity than the state of affairs being explained. I argue that the abstract entity need not be causally relevant to the explanandum for its features to be explanatorily relevant. I illustrate this using two cases: the explanation of Plateau's laws for soap-films and the explanation for the unsolvability of fifth-degree polynomial equations. In both cases the appeal to a more abstract domain provides significant explanatory insight into a more concrete domain.

Adrian Owen "The Search For Consciousness: Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State"
Abstract: The thought of being ‘locked in’ following a brain injury or aware during general anaesthesia troubles us all because it awakens the old terror of being buried alive. But what does it mean to be awake, but entirely unable to respond and what can this tell us about consciousness itself? In recent years, improvements in brain imaging technology have started to change the way we think about consciousness and how it should be measured. For example, in 2006, brain scanning was used to demonstrate that a young woman who was thought to be in a vegetative state was, in fact, conscious and aware. Three years later, a similar technique was used to actually communicate with such a patient who could answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions just by altering his brain activity. In this lecture I will discuss how studies of coma, vegetative state and general anaesthesia are helping us to understand human consciousness and how it can be measured after serious brain injury.

Adrian Owen "Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State: Ethical Challenges and Scientific Solutions"
Abstract: The vegetative state is one of the least understood and most ethically troublesome conditions in modern medicine. It is a rare disorder in which patients who emerge from a coma appear to be awake, but show no signs of awareness. In recent years, we have introduced a number of new methods that have revealed covert signs of awareness in up to 20% of physically non-responsive vegetative state patients. In some cases, these methods have even allowed patients to communicate with the outside world for the first time since their injuries. These findings have profound implications for clinical care, diagnosis, prognosis and medical-legal decision-making after severe brain injury, but also present many new ethical challenges for both scientists and physicians. By reflecting on our experiences with a cohort of physically non-responsive (yet covertly conscious) patients and their families, I will discuss these ethical challenges and, where possible, suggest evidence-based solutions. 

Adrian Owen "When Thoughts Become Actions: Functional Neuroimaging in Disorders of Conciousness"
Abstract: In recent years, rapid technological developments in the field of neuroimaging have provided new methods for revealing thoughts, actions and intentions based solely on the pattern of activity that is observed in the brain. In specialized centres, these methods are now being employed routinely to detect consciousness and even to communicate with some behaviourally non-responsive patients who clinically appear to be comatose or in a vegetative state. In this talk, I will compare those circumstances in which neuroimaging data can be used to infer consciousness in the absence of a behavioural response with those circumstances in which it cannot. This distinction is fundamental for understanding and interpreting patterns of brain activity in various states of consciousness (including anaesthesia), and has profound implications for clinical care, diagnosis, prognosis and medical-legal decision- making after severe brain injury. It also sheds light on more basic scientific questions about how consciousness is measured and the neural representation of our own thoughts and intentions.

Sally Haslanger “Are We Breaking the Ivory Ceiling? Women and Minorities in Philosophy and STEM Disciplines”
Abstract:
There has been significant work on the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM disciplines through the NSF ADVANCE program.  Philosophy, however, has not drawn the same attention and continues to lag behind in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups, not only in comparison with other humanities and social sciences, but almost all the natural sciences (physics being the exception).  What can we learn from recent research about the persistence of these disparities? What is being done now, and what should be done, to avoid the substantial loss of talent and to make the academy more just?

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Fall 2012

September 14, 2012, 275 Nicholson Hall
Kuhnfest Keynote Lecture

"Kuhn Revisited: Generative Entrenchment and Scientific Change"
William C Wimsatt
, Winton Chair in the Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota
abstract

September 21, 2012, 131 Tate

"Charles Darwin's Beagle Voyage, Fossil Vertebrate Succession, and 'The Gradual Birth & Death of Species'"
Paul Brinkman,
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
abstract
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

September 28, 2012 3:30 pm 1-110 Carlson School of Management
***Note change of venue***

"An Alternative Agenda for the Philosophy of Science"
George Smith
, Tufts University
abstract
Co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Program in the History of Science

October 5, 2012, 275 Nicholson Hall
Kuhnfest Keynote Lecture

“Assessing the Impact of Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Brad Wray, State University of New York, Oswego
abstract

October 12, 2012, 131 Tate

Author meets readers
"Pills Power and Policy"
Author: Dominique Tobbell,
University of Minnesota
Readers: Rosemary A. Stevens, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, and
Elizabeth Watkins
, History of Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco
abstract
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Medicine

Thursday, October 18, 2012, 4 pm, 731 Heller Hall

"Languages as Communication Technology: An Evolutionary Perspective"
Salikoko S. Mufwene, Department of Linguistics, University of Chicago
abstract

October 19, 2012, 131 Tate

"From Testimonies to Observation: Translating Facts from Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Spanish Books"
Antonio Barrera
, Colgate University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Medicine

Thursday, October 25, 2012, 4 pm 731 Heller Hall

"Cultural Phylogeny: Trees, Thickets, or Something in Between?"
Michael O'Brien, Department of Anthropology. University of Missouri
abstract

October 26, 2012, 12:15 pm 130 Murphy Hall
***Note change of time and venue***
Annual Science Studies Symposium

"40 Years Growth of Developmental Biology"
Jonathan Slack, Director, Stem Cell Institute, University of Minnesota
abstract

October 26, 2012, 131 Tate

"Youth and Sex: Science, Religion and Sex Education in Early Twentieth-Century Britain"
Jacqueline deVries
, Augsburg College
abstract
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

November 2, 2012, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Violations of causal faithfulness: What they are, when to expect them, and why it matters"
Holly Andersen
, Simon Fraser University
abstract

November 9, 2012, 131 Tate

"Big Men in a Little Box: Wilbur O. Atwater’s Research on the Study of Food Calories in the United States"
Deborah Levine,
Department of Health Policy and Management, Providence College
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Medicine

November 16, 2012 no colloquium

November 23, 2012 THANKSGIVING no colloquium

November 30, 2012, 275 Nicholson Hall
Kuhnfest Keynote Lecture

"Arches and Scaffoldings: Continuity and Discontinuity in the Genesis of Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics"
Michel Janssen
, History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Minnesota
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science
abstract

December 7, 2012, 131 Tate

"Evolutionary Theory and Economics and Management"
Peter Murmann
, Australian Graduate School of Management, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and visiting professor, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

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Abstracts for Fall 2012

William C. Wimsatt "Kuhn Revisited: Generative Entrenchment and Scientific Change"
Abstract: Generative Entrenchment is the entrenchment of an element of a system through use, through what it generates or makes possible. This may apply to concepts, to assumptions of a theory, to instrumentation, to technology, even to model organisms. Deeply entrenched things are more resistant to change in proportion to their depth of entrenchment—a characteristic that applies in biological, technological, and scientific evolution. This fact can explain many aspects of Thomas Kuhn’s picture of normal science and scientific revolutions, and helps to extend the notion of paradigm-guided research to other areas. The picture that emerges is one much like Kuhn’s, but differently based. The connection Kuhn sought with biological evolution is generated in a way he did not anticipate, but casts new light on many problems in his picture of scientific change. Examples are drawn from several areas, especially the development of classical genetics.

Paul Brinkman, "Charles Darwin's Beagle Voyage, Fossil Vertebrate Succession, and 'The Gradual Birth & Death of Species'"
Abstract: The prevailing view among historians of science holds that Charles Darwin became a convinced transmutationist only in the early spring of 1837, after his Beagle collections had been examined by expert British naturalists. With respect to the fossil vertebrate evidence, some historians believe that Darwin was incapable of seeing or understanding the transmutationist implications of his specimens without the help of Richard Owen. There is ample evidence, however, that he clearly recognized the similarities between several of the fossil vertebrates he collected and some of the extant fauna of South America before he returned to Britain. These comparisons, recorded in his correspondence, his diary and his notebooks during the voyage, were instances of a phenomenon that he later called the “law of the succession of types.” Moreover, on the Beagle, he was following a geological research agenda outlined in the second volume of Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, which implies that paleontological data alone could provide an insight into the laws which govern the appearance of new species. Since Darwin claims in On the Origin of Species that fossil vertebrate succession was one of the key lines of evidence that led him to question the fixity of species, it seems certain that he was seriously contemplating transmutation during the Beagle voyage. If so, historians of science need to reconsider both the role of Britain’s expert naturalists and the importance of the fossil vertebrate evidence in the development of Darwin’s ideas on transmutation.

George Smith,"An Alternative Agenda for the Philosophy of Science"
Abstract: The evidential support for knowledge claims in the sciences varies dramatically not only from science to science, but also from claim to claim and one time to another. The talk will consider a series of examples, mostly from the physical sciences, to motivate an alternative agenda for philosophy of science – a set of questions that depart somewhat from the questions on which it has been focusing for most of the last 100 years. The claim is that answers to these questions will put us in a better position to critically assess knowledge claims made in the sciences.


Brad Wray “Assessing the Impact of Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Abstract: Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions continues to be read widely 50 years after it was published. I examine the impact of Kuhn's Structure on the philosophy of science and the controversies it raised. I also examine the legacy of Structure, including both the topics Kuhn made popular, and topics that philosophers should address as a result of Kuhn's work.

Dominique Tobbell "Pills, Power, and Policy"
Abstract:
Since the 1950s, the American pharmaceutical industry has been heavily criticized for its profit levels, the high cost of prescription drugs, drug safety problems, and more, yet it has, together with the medical profession, staunchly and successfully opposed regulation. Pills, Power, and Policy offers a lucid history of how the American drug industry and key sectors of the medical profession came to be allies against pharmaceutical reform. It details the political strategies they have used to influence public opinion, shape legislative reform, and define the regulatory environment of prescription drugs. Untangling the complex relationships between drug companies, physicians, and academic researchers, the book provides essential historical context for understanding how corporate interests came to dominate American health care policy after World War II.

Salikoko S. Mufwene "Languages as Communication Technology: An Evolutionary Perspective"
Abstract: Assuming polygenesis, this paper is not so much about when languages emerged in the phylogeny of mankind as it is about how and why they did, incrementally, in a very protracted way. The presentation capitalizes on my position that the mind and human anatomy are the most direct ecologies to languages, with the mind co-opting or domesticating the anatomy to satisfy the increasing and more and more articulate communicative needs of hominine populations evolving to more and more complex socioeconomic organizations.

Michael J. O'Brien "Cultural Phylogeny: Trees, Thickets, or Something in Between?"
Abstract: Phylogeny refers to the genealogical history of any group of things, be they organisms, manuscripts, languages, or anything else that changes over time by means of an ancestor passing on material to an offspring. Phylogeny should be an important issue in both anthropology and archaeology because of their focus on history—that is, on questions about how and why people and their cultural trappings change in certain ways over time. These are evolutionary questions, just as in biology questions about organismal change over time are evolutionary. Not surprisingly, some of the classificatory methods that have been devised to examine historical (evolutionary) questions in biology—in particular, cladistics—have significant value for the study of cultural phenomena. The transference of methods from biology to anthropology is based on a growing recognition that artifacts, language, and other aspects of culture are phenotypic features in the same way that shells, nests, and bones are phenotypic in the organismal world.
Two methodological issues assume primacy in attempts to extend cladistics to cultural phenomena: the construction of analytical taxa and the selection of appropriate outgroups. In many biological applications of cladistics, the species is the primary taxonomic unit used, irrespective of the debates that have arisen in phylogenetic theory over the nature of species. Also in biology the phylogenetic history of a group of taxa usually is well enough known that an appropriate taxon can be selected as an outgroup. Similarly, in anthropological studies of phylogeny, languages and populations are targeted as units analysis, but for the vast majority of culture, including tools, customs, and the like, there are no analytical units parallel to species, languages, or populations. Thus taxa have to be constructed specifically for phylogenetic analysis. One method of constructing taxa is paradigmatic classification, which defines classes (taxa) on the basis of co-occurring, unweighted character states. Once classes have been created, a form of occurrence seriation—an archaeological method based on the theory of cultural transmission and heritability—offers an objective basis for selecting an outgroup.

Jonathan Slack, "40 Years Growth of Developmental Biology"
Abstract: Developmental biology deals mostly with the mechanisms of embryonic development of animals. Since the 1980s it has been one of the high visibility branches of modern molecular bioscience, along with others such as neuroscience, cell biology, evolutionary biology and cancer biology. It has its origins in classical experimental embryology, dating back to the late nineteenth century, and developmental genetics, dating to the 1920s. But it really took off in the 1980s when these traditions were brought together and reinforced by the newly invented toolkit of molecular biology. Many major discoveries were made during the 1980s and 1990s, especially concerning the mechanism of regional specification: i.e. how different body parts come to be specified in different positions starting from a simple fertilized egg. Very important in this phase was the use of “model organisms”, animal species which were suited to work in the lab and which enabled universal problems to be solved using the most technically favorable developmental system. At this time it was discovered that many of the basic developmental mechanisms were common to all animals, involving the same genes and cellular signaling systems despite the obvious differences of morphology between different types of animal.
The overall level of academic research activity showed a steep and continuous rise from the 1970s to the 2010s, but the number of key discoveries fell off significantly in the 2000s. This was accompanied by a number of social processes, probably very similar to those seen in other academic subdisciplines at this stage of their life cycle. The exponential growth engine built into the academic system generated many more investigators in the field, there was a focus on detail rather than principles, and competition for funds and for prestigious publication slots became extremely severe. Developmental biology came to resemble a landscape which had been almost “mined out” but where ever more miners are trying to process lower and lower grade ores.
In fact, there are still important and general unsolved problems in developmental biology. But these are hard to solve with no obvious route of entry. The risks of addressing an unsolved problem area are very high and the incentives built into the academic career system rather reward a focus on detail and on aggressive competitive behavior to secure resources. Developmental biology has also generated important inputs for stem cell biology, which is an even faster growing academic enterprise with a much more practical and translational focus.

Jacqueline deVries, "Youth and Sex: Science, Religion and Sex Education in Early Twentieth-Century Britain"
Abstract: From Elizabeth Blackwell’s Counsel to Parents (1878) onwards, Christian and social purity feminists produced some of the earliest and most widely circulated sex education texts as a means of promoting morality and positive sexual awareness. By the early twentieth century, they no longer focused exclusively on sexual morality as an end in itself, but rather as a determinant of national fitness and racial regeneration. Embracing scientific and eugenic ideas of racial improvement, social purity feminists now focused on a new medical-moral discourse of ‘social hygiene’ and emphasized knowledge rather than ignorance as the means to sexual purity. These developments hinged on the circulation of clear and accurate information about the human body.
The work and reputation of Mary Scharlieb, a gynaecologist hailed as the “most important medical woman of her generation,” will serve as the prism through which I trace the shifting discourses relating to sexual knowledge and sex education for children and adolescents in the early twentieth century. A staff surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in London and prominent member of the Royal Commission on Venereal Disease, Scharlieb was also a prolific author of popular tracts for young people Youth and Sex (1913; rep. 1919) was one of the first manuals to present detailed physiological discussions of female puberty, menstruation and the function of the ovaries and womb. Her many other best-selling books included England’s Girls and England’s Future (1916), A Child Welfare Manual (1919), and Health and Fitness (1921).
Historians have given little attention to Scharlieb’s contributions to emerging modern discourses of sexuality, however, perhaps because of her moralistic tone and close affiliation with the Anglo-Catholic tradition (which led her, for example, to oppose birth control.) Yet, this paper will argue that while the motives of social purity feminists were complex, they nevertheless must be credited for raising sexual awareness and helping young people break the silence on sex.

Holly Andersen, "Violations of causal faithfulness: What they are, when to expect them, and why it matters" 
Abstract: Recent advances in methodology for finding causal structure from probabilistic relationships in data rely on certain assumptions about the systems in question. I examine one of these assumptions, causal faithfulness, which is essentially that there are no precisely counterbalanced causal relationships in the system under investigation. I show how many types of systems that are interest to scientists violate this assumption, and examine some of the consequences of such violations for the task of finding causal structure from probabilistic relationships. Even systems that are almost balanced, but not quite, will pose similar experimental difficulties for researchers. The talk will begin by laying out the key ideas and terms involved in causal modeling to motivate an intuitive understanding of the problem for nonspecialists.

Michel Janssen, "Arches and Scaffoldings: Continuity and Discontinuity in the Genesis of Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanic"
Abstract: In principle, new theoretical structures in physics, unlike arches and other architectural structures, could be erected without any scaffolding. After all, that is essentially how the four-dimensional formalism of special relativity, the curved space-times of general relativity, and the Hilbert space formalism of quantum mechanics are introduced in modern textbooks. Historically, however, such structures, like arches, were first erected on top of elaborate scaffolding provided by the structures they ultimately replaced. After briefly discussing prospects and limitations of this metaphor, I examine (in chronological order and time permitting) four examples of arches and scaffoldings in the history of relativity and quantum theory, drawing heavily on my earlier work (some of it done together with Tony Duncan, Anne Kox, John Norton, and Jürgen Renn).
       My first example concerns special relativity. Lorentz’s theorem of corresponding states for Maxwell’s equations formed the scaffolding for Minkowski’s new relativistic space-time geometry: Lorentz invariance turned out to be a symmetry of this new space-time rather than just a peculiar feature of the laws of electrodynamics. Abraham’s electromagnetic mechanics likewise formed the scaffolding for Laue’s relativistic continuum mechanics: the energy-momentum tensor coming out of Abraham's electromagnetic mechanics could be generalized far beyond electromagnetism. Stripped of their electromagnetic particulars, Lorentz invariance and the energy-momentum tensor could serve as the foundation for a new relativistic physics.
       My second example concerns general relativity. Lorentz’s theory of the electromagnetic field provided Einstein with the scaffolding for developing theories of the gravitational field, both his own and the so-called Nordström theory. It was only after this strategy had led him to the field equations for these theories that he removed the scaffolding and presented these theories as naturally suggested by the geometry of curved space-times.
       My last two examples are taken from the history of quantum theory. The Kramers dispersion formula, in which only quantities referring to transitions between orbits occur, provided Heisenberg with the scaffolding for a new theory for all of physics, not just dispersion, formulated entirely in terms of such transition quantities.
       Finally, Jordan was the first to formulate in full generality the peculiar rules for probabilities in the new quantum mechanics. The formalism Jordan used to implement these rules was rooted in the theory of canonical transformations familiar from classical mechanics. Von Neumann showed that the peculiar behavior of probabilities in quantum mechanics is much more naturally captured in his new Hilbert space formalism and he discarded Jordan’s scaffolding.

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Colloquia Information

Unless otherwise indicated, the lectures are held on Fridays, in conjunction with the Colloquium in Studies of Science and Technology, at 3:35 PM in Room 275 Nicholson Hall. Colloquia sponsored by the Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine are held in room 131 of the Tate Laboratory of Physics on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota.

If you would like to be notified by email of upcoming Center colloquia, please email your request to mcps@umn.edu

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