QuestionQuestion

REACTION PAPER #4

READ: Stevenson and Byerly, Many Faces of Science, chap. 8-10, pp. 143-218; Ede and Cormack, History of Science in Society, chap. 10-11, pp. 295-348.

WRITE a reaction paper at least 4 pages (double spaced, regular margins, at least 1,000 words; please feel free to write more – this can help your grade ) in length about these chapters.
Some questions you may wish to consider include the following. Please note that you do not need to answer every question, but you should respond to both books.

For Many Faces of Science:

CHAPTER 8

How is science funded? How does this make a difference in what a scientist does?

Why did Galileo do what he did?

Why did Lavoisier lose his head during the French Revolution?

How did Darwin’s early experiences influence his development of the idea of evolution?

What was the difference between the Curies and Nobel in their views of science and profit?

What did Gilbert do concerning the commercialization of molecular biology?

What are the main issues relating to cold fusion? How does this relate to some of the ideas we have been discussing in this course?

CHAPTER 9

Physicists in Nazi Germany – Planck, Einstein, Lenard, Stark, and Heisenberg. How did they react to the Nazi regime? Do you see any patterns or differences? What do you think could cause their different reactions? How do you think YOU would react in such a situation? From the information presented in the textbook, do you believe Heisenberg’s claims about the development of atomic energy and the atomic bomb in Nazi Germany? There was a famous play written about this episode – Copenhagen – that you may wish to read.

Be careful about the interpretation of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. I believe the textbook is mistaken in how they refer to this, but I might just be too sensitive. The Uncertainty Principle really does not have anything to do with uncertainty as we generally view it. Rather, what it means is that in the quantum world, a researcher is able to precisely measure either the location of a particle or its momentum, but not both. That’s the uncertainty that Heisenberg meant – you are not able to determine the exact location and speed of a particle in the ultra-small quantum realm as you can in Newtonian mechanics.

For the topic of scientists and communism in the Soviet Union, who was Lysenko? Why did he gain the support of political leaders in the Soviet Union? Do you think this episode has any similarities to science in other countries?

While the basic outline of Lysenko’s career is fairly accurate, the textbook is seriously misleading about the overall history of science in the Soviet Union. I think it should be very surprising to realize that it was during Stalin’s era that the best Soviet physics research was performed. In fact, most of the Nobel Prizes received by Soviet scientists were for work done at this time. Some of these scientists even conducted their research while in special prison camps for scientists! What do you make of this? Why would scientists do good work in repressive times? I don’t have an answer for this, but it is a fascinating puzzle to think about.

Who were Kurchatov and Sakharov? How did they differ in their reaction to the Soviet state?

CHAPTER 10

This chapter looks at the involvement of scientists and public policy. The first part on scientists and nuclear weapons has some connections with the last chapter, so you might want to refer back to the sections on the Soviet atomic weapons program.

How did Szilard, Bohr, Oppenheimer, and Teller react to the problem of nuclear weapons? Should scientists have more say in what their research is used for or should they leave it up to political leaders? But if the scientists have control, would they know enough about politics and other concerns to really know what to do? But then would that not mean that scientists in totalitarian countries (such as Nazi Germany) should do exactly what the political leaders want?

A more modern example is genetic engineering. How much control should scientists have over their work with genes? There are many issues related to genetic engineering. Which ones do you think are most important?

Finally, ecology and the environment are also current issues. This book was written before the recent controversies about global warming, so that is not discussed, but some earlier environmental debates are briefly considered. If you have read about global warming, how do these earlier episodes compare?

For History of Science in Society:

Chapter 10

How did De Broglie deal with the wave/particle problem?

What is the essential idea in Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle? [Why is it inaccurate to call it the uncertainty principle?]

Is Schrodinger’s cat dead or alive? While this may seem funny, there is a very serious and important philosophical and scientific principle behind this thought experiment.

Why did T. H. Morgan study fruit flies? Fruit flies are not important and are very different from humans, so why did he select them to work on? Why do scientists often study such unimportant things? What did Morgan find out?

What is atomic fission? How does a neutron chain reaction work and why is this important? What was Lise Meitner’s role in understanding these processes? [By the way, Meitner is a very interesting figure in the history of science. Someone might want to write a research paper on her.]

What was the Manhattan Project? And why is it relevant to New Mexico?

How is fusion different from fission?

How was the structure of DNA discovered?

Chapter 11

What was Sputnik? Why was it important?

What was the International Geophysical Year?

What was Wegener’s idea of continental drift? Why did scientists not immediately accept this theory? What role did the IGY play in supporting the concept of continental drift?

What are the Steady State and Big Bag Theories of the universe? [Note: not a TV show!]

Who was Robert Goddard?

What was the role of the state in the development of rocketry in the Soviet Union?

How did the U.S. react to Soviet rocketry advances?

Was the U.S. only interested in peaceful uses of space?

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Reflection chapter 8 from Stevenson and Byerly
The funding for scientific research today comes from three sources. The first source is the state which offers funding for projects of national interest; the academia, wherein scientists working on colleges get grants for their research; the industry and private grants, which allocate funds for specific purposes and research that is usually closely linked with their own interests.
This division offers a line of reasoning every aspiring scientists should turn to at least once in his/her career. Where does the money for my research come from, and what do I have to do in return? For the first two sources it is relatively clear where the money comes from, for what purpose and what is expected. The third, however is a little more problematic. This is not to say that private funding of the science is bad in any way, on the contrary, but the fact is science is funded by companies not for the betterment of mankind (although this can be a consequence of such research) but to increase revenue of that company. This can have serious moral implications for scientists.
Consider the following example. A scientist...

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