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#1 deSitter

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 10:58 AM

Would science progress without anomalies?

Give some examples of genuine anomalies that lead to tremendous - or even marginal - progress in science. Let's have a thorough discussion of the role of anomalies in scientific progress.

-drl

#2 AstroGabe

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 02:29 PM

UV Catastrophe

#3 Pess

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 03:54 PM

Would science progress without anomalies?

Give some examples of genuine anomalies that lead to tremendous - or even marginal - progress in science. Let's have a thorough discussion of the role of anomalies in scientific progress.

-drl


The discovery of penicillin when Flemming noted failed growth of bacteria around mold contaminated cultures.

On a side note the fact that the Higgs was found right where it was expected disappointed a lot of people. If it was considerable off from expected values, that could have pointed scientists in the direction of where the Standard model was flawed..leading to a new theory that included gravity.

We need to know WHERE the Standard model fails to find the door into gravity.

Pesse (That would be an attractive theory) Mist

#4 scopethis

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 04:59 PM

when Eve gave us the ability to think and wonder....

#5 Joad

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 05:02 PM

Would science progress without anomalies?

Yes. Much of the history of science is the result of the observation and eventual measurement and successful theorization of known phenomena behaving regularly.

Give some examples of genuine anomalies that lead to tremendous - or even marginal - progress in science. Let's have a thorough discussion of the role of anomalies in scientific progress.

But anomalies have played a role, of course. The Michelson-Morley experiment struck an anomaly, and we know the eventual outcome of that. X-rays were discovered through an anomaly (clouded photographic plates stored in a dark space).

-drl



#6 deSitter

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 08:35 PM

UV Catastrophe


Good one. Harp on that note. Tell us the story.

-drl

#7 CounterWeight

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 11:08 PM

How about the satellite detectors sent up for nuclear explosions during the cold war leading to the whole high enegy realm?

#8 dickbill

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 09:07 AM

I recall 2 anecdotes:

First, there are the Mendel's law of allelic inheritance. You'll remember he was counting green peas by the thousands to find his laws. He was crossing homozygotes or heterozygotes of one allele and counting the resulting offsprings composed again of homozygotic or heterozygotic forms. But chromosomal Crossing Overs, albeit rare, produce a small percentasge of new forms that fits neither heterozygotic or homozygotic phenotypes. Apparently Mendel just observed the heterozygotes or homozygotes without the anomalies that the crossing over should have produced. And he should have observed these 'anomalies' since he was processing thousands of offsprings. These anomalies would have destroyed the pretty fractional numbers in 1/4 or 1/2 that he 'observed', destroying God's given perfect world. Assuming he observed such aberrant forms and thought they were a statistical glitch resulting from a too low statistical sampling, the correct thinking in that case would have been to increase the sample size, crossing tens or hundred of thousands instead of thousands and increasing as much his workload. But doing all this extrawork would not have rewarded him with 'divine perfection' since it would not have erased the 'anomaly'. That might just have increase Mendel's frustration instead. What would have Mendel thought and said about that is unknown. Because he didn't do the counting alone, he had an helper who probably removed all the aberrations in the peas. And so Mendel was free to produce the inheritance laws that carry his name.

Second example is a bit similar. It's about chinese physicists around the 16/15 century who correctly observed that whenever you fire a precisely weighted bullet from a canon with exactly the same force and angle, the canon ball nonetheless never EXACTLY falls at the same place. This might have induce them to think, it is said, that no absolute law of cinematic existed.

#9 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 09:26 AM

Thank you for raising this philosophical issue, drl.

I'm sure you have all heard of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This was the book which coined the oft-used phrase paradigm-shifts.

To simplify, Kuhn's contention which generated a great deal of heat (conflict) was that anomalies were necessary to cause science to break out of the normal way of doing things which he described as puzzle solving and looking for expected results.

Otto

#10 llanitedave

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 09:58 AM

Second example is a bit similar. It's about chinese physicists around the 16/15 century who correctly observed that whenever you fire a precisely weighted bullet from a canon with exactly the same force and angle, the canon ball nonetheless never EXACTLY falls at the same place. This might have induce them to think, it is said, that no absolute law of cinematic existed.


Or it could have taught them that their powder charges were too variable to ever provide precise force repeatability: Hand mixed and loaded rounds can never be all that consistent.

In addition, any shot of more than a trivial distance will encounter wind effects. Not to mention that even if they reuse the same projectile each time, it's going to receive surface blemishes that are unique to each impact, so a reshot will never be exactly repeatable.

In other words, their experiments could never be precise enough to derive any second-order general laws from.

#11 ColoHank

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 10:02 AM

Would science progress without anomalies?



Yes. Science would progress along with changes in the culture base. And I think it may be important to distinguish between true anomalies (deviations from the norm) on the one hand and things like error and serendipity on the other.

#12 moynihan

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 10:13 AM

when Eve gave us the ability to think and wonder....


:question:

The Hunger of Eve

#13 dickbill

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 11:32 AM


Second example is a bit similar. It's about chinese physicists around the 16/15 century who correctly observed that whenever you fire a precisely weighted bullet from a canon with exactly the same force and angle, the canon ball nonetheless never EXACTLY falls at the same place. This might have induce them to think, it is said, that no absolute law of cinematic existed.


Or it could have taught them that their powder charges were too variable to ever provide precise force repeatability: Hand mixed and loaded rounds can never be all that consistent.

In addition, any shot of more than a trivial distance will encounter wind effects. Not to mention that even if they reuse the same projectile each time, it's going to receive surface blemishes that are unique to each impact, so a reshot will never be exactly repeatable.

In other words, their experiments could never be precise enough to derive any second-order general laws from.


They were master at making gun powder, and they must have been aware of all sources of variation and be able to measure them. Perhaps the chinese skepticicsm came from the observation that the undetermination in their ballistic system had non linear effects and they were simply mentioning the fact that X times a cause does not necesserily produce X time an effect.
In any case i can't remember where i read about this anecdote. It might have been the report of a conversation between early occidental and chinese scientists. The chineses, annoyed by the occidental scientific determinism, gave this example as an evidence that the world could not be reduced to a clockwork mechanism and therefore that the occidental mathematical laws were incomplete at best.

It shows that it is not good to know about chaos theory and the butterfly effect before you know about simple kinematic relations.

#14 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 07:10 PM

Kuhn wrote that, when faced with an anomaly, the scientific establishment does not treat the anomaly as a fact at all. Until a major shift in perspective occurs, those persons and institutions doing-science-the-normal-way up-to-that-point try to minimize/ignore the anomaly in a number of different ways.

For the anomaly to be taken into account as a scientific fact, a new paradigm of explanation has to arise which not only accounts for the anomaly, but also adequately explains what previous paradigms explained as well.

#15 Rick Woods

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 08:20 PM

If sound doesn't travel in a vacuum, why is my vacuum so noisy?

#16 seryddwr

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 10:08 PM

If sound doesn't travel in a vacuum, why is my vacuum so noisy?

Simple, all the noise outside of the vacuum is to make up for the silence within. :grin:

#17 llanitedave

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 10:20 PM


Second example is a bit similar. It's about chinese physicists around the 16/15 century who correctly observed that whenever you fire a precisely weighted bullet from a canon with exactly the same force and angle, the canon ball nonetheless never EXACTLY falls at the same place. This might have induce them to think, it is said, that no absolute law of cinematic existed.


Or it could have taught them that their powder charges were too variable to ever provide precise force repeatability: Hand mixed and loaded rounds can never be all that consistent.

In addition, any shot of more than a trivial distance will encounter wind effects. Not to mention that even if they reuse the same projectile each time, it's going to receive surface blemishes that are unique to each impact, so a reshot will never be exactly repeatable.

In other words, their experiments could never be precise enough to derive any second-order general laws from.


They were master at making gun powder, and they must have been aware of all sources of variation and be able to measure them. Perhaps the chinese skepticicsm came from the observation that the undetermination in their ballistic system had non linear effects and they were simply mentioning the fact that X times a cause does not necesserily produce X time an effect.
In any case i can't remember where i read about this anecdote. It might have been the report of a conversation between early occidental and chinese scientists. The chineses, annoyed by the occidental scientific determinism, gave this example as an evidence that the world could not be reduced to a clockwork mechanism and therefore that the occidental mathematical laws were incomplete at best.

It shows that it is not good to know about chaos theory and the butterfly effect before you know about simple kinematic relations.


Thing is though, nonlinearity does not contradict determinism. All it means is that they did not control for all their sources of error, if indeed the story itself isn't apocryphal. The ancient Chinese were pretty sophisticated in a lot of ways, but I would be hesitant to give their science more credit than is due.

#18 Qwickdraw

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 05:25 AM

I don’t believe the Pioneer anomaly has been definitively solved and as far as I know has not led to any scientific breakthroughs but it sure has caused many theories to be put forth and much research to be done.

#19 dickbill

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 09:59 AM

" Thing is though, nonlinearity does not contradict determinism... "
Sure, but my feeling on this is that the Chineses were pretexting this as an excuse for not developing a mathematical model of their cosmology, added with the shame that occidental scientists did have a working model. They were probably also trying to save their heads.
I recall another anecdote where jesuits, possibly portuguese, entered some sort of competition with chinses astronomers to predict the time of an eclipse with the most accuracy. The jesuits were very close while the chinese were way off. That upseted the chinese emperor, who decided to cut his astronomer's head.

To add on Otto's remark on the anomalies, they are usually much smaller than the main effect. So they can easily pass in the 'error bar'. But some anomalies don't belong in that category, i am thinking about the anthropic coincidences. Here the anomaly is the main effect...

#20 dickbill

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:21 PM

Well, Pioneer anomaly is resolved apparently:"...By 2012 several papers by different groups, all reanalyzing the thermal radiation pressure forces inherent in the spacecraft, showed that a careful accounting of this could account for the entire anomaly..." http://en.wikipedia....Pioneer_anomaly

#21 AstroGabe

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:37 PM

In my mind, the UV catastrophe was one of the biggest anomalies that, once explained, changed the course of the world. There was an apparent contradiction to how much electromagnetic energy was present in a given region of space vs. the classical description. Assuming the classical picture, a blackbody radiating would have infinite power, something that's clearly not the case. Out of this came the foundations of quantum mechanics such as discreteness in nature.

Gabe

#22 AstroGabe

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:43 PM

Also, to the point of whether scientific progress could occur without anomalies: I think that it would. There are many instances where an experiment is done in a region never before probed that leads to new and unexpected results that help push our understanding even further.

However, some of the big breakthroughs often occur when attempting to solve or disprove an anomaly.

Gabe

#23 Qwickdraw

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:51 PM

Well, Pioneer anomaly is resolved apparently:"...By 2012 several papers by different groups, all reanalyzing the thermal radiation pressure forces inherent in the spacecraft, showed that a careful accounting of this could account for the entire anomaly..." http://en.wikipedia....Pioneer_anomaly


Yes, I read the most likely accepted cause but unless you could actually re-orient Pioneer to face the opposite direction it is currently traveling and prove the radiation emitted pressure is asymmetrical it is still just a theory.

#24 AstroGabe

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:54 PM

I wouldn't consider the "Pioneer anomaly" as an anomaly. If something has a scientifically plausible explanation, I would not consider it an anomaly.

Gabe

#25 Qwickdraw

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 05:26 AM

I wouldn't consider the "Pioneer anomaly" as an anomaly. If something has a scientifically plausible explanation, I would not consider it an anomaly.

Gabe


I would suggest you should reconsider what you believe an anomaly is. An anomaly is just a departure from what you would expect. Determining a scientifically plausible explanation does not make it less of an anomaly . I would suggest that future reoccurring and consistent observations of the same behavior could then lose their anomaly status if the behavior becomes "expected" whether scientifically explainable or not.






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