Weissman on the Birth of Physics

The title link will bring you to Joseph Weissman's article that explores some key ideas relating to Michel Serres, mathematics and physics.

Declination in a Laminar Flow

Serres begins the first section of The Birth of Physics by showing how the clinamen (atomic swerve) has been represented as a weakness of atomic theory, as a prescientific absurdity. Why has it been able to appear this way? First, because declination is a physical absurdity (since experimentation cannot reveal its existence); second, it is a mechanical absurdity (since it is contrary to the principle of inertia and would result in perpetual motion); and finally, it is a logical absurdity (since it is introduced without justification, as being the cause of itself before being the cause of all things.) Serres writes: “The thing is so absurd and so far from our experience that the physicalist minimizes it, as if to hide it.”


Joe said...

Appreciate the link! Looks like a great website you're building. Oh, and could you fix the spelling of my last name? Thanks!

Joe Weissman

Milton said...

Thanks for the spelling correction notice. It seems I had it right in the title and then botched it on the tag and body copy. You've got some great articles online.

mutablematter said...

Cool - just writing about Serres' take on matter! Have you seen this on the same site?