Monday, July 13, 2009

Seven years from now...

Seven years from now is 2016. This will be an important year for us in the Duhem Society, and it is well that we begin our planning now - yes, even though we are still working on our initial plans for the Society!

But perhaps in seven years we shall have our Society well-established, with branches in many countries, with a real journal, and perhaps some grants for people doing research, and a few publications, and perhaps even a Conference with lectures and pleasant sessions for friendly conversations with wine and cheese and so forth... yes, that would be very nice. We'll see. For now, at least we have this blogg, and some people who are interested enough to read and think about such important things as Science, Philosophy, History, and Religion - and that is a very good thing for humanity.

But, you ask, what happens in seven years that our Duhem Society ought to prepare?

Well, 2016 will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Pierre Duhem, and we ought to celebrate this with a Festschrift of studies on his work, if not a plenary conference, with a publishing of its Proceedings, and so on. No doubt it will be held in France, perhaps with a hiking tour of the routes Duhem traversed and painted as he pondered the truths of physics and his remarkable discoveries of the work of the medieval Sorbonne.

But 2016 will also mark the 50th anniversary of Jaki's first major book, The Relevance of Physics, which will deserve a re-release - updated, or annotated, or augmented to extend the points he made there. I am well aware that it is a hefty book, somewhat difficult when first encountered, but it is important, and seven years ought to suffice for the study and work it deserves.

Lest you think I am being quarrelsome when I suggest that it be augmented, I will just give you one short excerpt which I feel deserves some further detail. I know there is very much detail in the book, but it is already over 40 years old - written before the first lunar landing! - and science has continued to acquire new details - so of course we need more details! But just examine this and see what you think. (Note, I am not a professional astronomer, and cannot add to the details of my own knowledge, but perhaps you are, or have a friend who is...)
Lest one should think that all the novelties of the cosmos are confined to its most remote reaches, it is well to recall some recent findings that should dissipate at once the complacency that our own backyard in the universe contains no more surprises. Thus it was found in 1964 that Venus is slowly spinning in a direction opposite to that of the Sun, the planets, and most of the moons. The same year also brought the discovery that Mercury too is spinning at a rate of about fifty-nine days, with the result that all its surface is exposed periodically to the sun's light. Such findings, needless to say, might very well force a major revision of the accepted views concerning the development of the solar system. Again, as indicated by the recently observed red-colored spots on the moon's surface, the moon is far from being a huge, long dead chunk of matter. It seems therefore highly plausible to assume that bringing the moon and the neighboring planets closer to the earth by a factor of 1,000 or so with modern techniques of observation might produce the same revolutionary information that invariably followed when astronomy increased in the past by a similar factor its penetration into the universe. The spectacular photographs taken by Ranger VII, Luna IX, and especially by Surveyor I, of the moon's surface represent such a big step, and when man succeeds in getting a sample of the moon's surface, he might answer the question whether or not the strength of gravitation is weakening with time.
[SLJ The Relevance of Physics 220]
No, you do not have to write an entire journal article - not yet, anyway. But perhaps you might wish to begin considering what you might be able to do.

Yes, I am assuming you've already read The Relevance of Physics - because if you have not yet read it, please check it out from your library and begin. It may take a little while, and you may need to begin a new notebook, and dig out your old dictionary (or connect to the net to hunt up some references ot some of the names!) but I assure you, it will be worth your time.

Even if you are NOT a scientist, read it. Take notes, ask questions. We have seven years.

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