Sunday, April 12, 2009

Theories and proof

Lavoisier had a theory of heat, that it was a substance called "caloric" that was an actual element on his periodic table, that displaced the real theory for decades.  It is an interesting case in that the theory was durable not only because of Lavoisier's great accomplishments in science but also because the theory explained so much. It was a great theory except that it was completely wrong.  Link to the Nova documentary. An interesting parallel might be drawn in politics. Theories and world views can survive in politics even longer because they are attached to something even more powerful than a scientist's reputation and can make "explain" an even broader range of phenomena.

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