Doing Physics, Second Edition
How Physicists Take Hold of the World
Publication Year: 2012
Doing Physics makes concepts of physics easier to grasp by relating them to everyday knowledge. Addressing some of the models and metaphors that physicists use to explain the physical world, Martin H. Krieger describes the conceptual world of physics by means of analogies to economics, anthropology, theater, carpentry, mechanisms such as clockworks, and machine tool design. The interaction of elementary particles or chemical species, for example, can be related to the theory of kinship—who can marry whom is like what can interact with what. Likewise, the description of physical situations in terms of interdependent particles and fields is analogous to the design of a factory with its division of labor among specialists. For the new edition, Krieger has revised the text and added a chapter on the role of mathematics and formal models in physics. Doing Physics will be of special interest to economists, political theorists, anthropologists, and sociologists as well as philosophers of science.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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This is a book about how physicists take hold of the world, actually about how some physicists get hold of some of the world. To an outsider watching physicists work, the details of that work and the physicist’s obsessive concerns make little sense unless one has some idea what physicists are up to, what their various goals or purposes are. ...
1. THE DIVISION OF LABOR: THE FACTORY
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The argument is: The workings of Nature are analogized to a factory with its division of labor. But here the laborers are of three sorts: walls, particles, and fields. Walls are in effect the possibility of shielding and separation; particles are the possibility of sources and localization; and fields allow for conservation laws and path dependence. ...
2. TAKING APART AND PUTTING TOGETHER: THE CLOCKWORKS, THE CALCULUS, AND THE COMPUTER
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The argument is: Parts are degrees of freedom, they are strategies, and they are commitments. In the first chapter the operative model was the division of labor in manufacture and in political economy. Now we ask just what kinds of individuals are suitable for a factory or for an economy of Nature. ...
3. FREEDOM AND NECESSITY: FAMILY AND KINSHIP
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The argument is: There is a remarkable analogy between kinship systems, particle physics, chemistry, and market economies. All may be accounted for by stories of fair exchange: of women, elementary particles, electrons, and currency and goods, respectively. ...
4. THE VACUUM AND THE CREATION: SETTING A STAGE
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The argument is: This chapter describes a set of strategies employed by physicists for achieving a comparatively simple world: They find an orderly emptiness – a “vacuum” that is much like our everyday notions of an empty space, properly understood. And in that vacuum, degrees of freedom that are in accord with that orderliness show them- selves most effectively. ...
5. HANDLES, PROBES, AND TOOLS: A RHETORIC OF NATURE
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The argument is: Philosophy has often projected a visual analogy of knowledge – the knower as spectator – into its discussions of science. But physicists speak of what they are doing in terms of an Archimedean, haptic, and instrumental analogy. They sensitively get hold of the world (the Archimedean fulcrum) and so get a feel for it; ...
6. PRODUCTION MACHINERY: MATHEMATICS FOR ANALYSIS AND DESCRIPTION
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The argument is: Mathematics provides machinery for modeling Nature, physicists customizing that mathematics so that it does the work of physics and of Nature, and along the way that machin- ery allows us to analyze and understand physical phenomena. ...
7. AN EPITOME
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Physicists’ theories and pictures of Nature are analogies with everyday phenomena and objects (hereafter, “objects”) such as a factory, a mechanism, or family relationships. How physicists get hold of the world through those analogies is the way Nature is for them. They understand each analogy in a highly stylized and particular way, and to so understand Nature is to be trained as a physicist.1 ...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012
Edition: Second Edition