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The One Culture?A Conversation about Science$
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Jay A. Labinger and Harry Collins

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780226467221

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226467245.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 February 2020

Physics and History

Physics and History

Chapter:
(p.116) Chapter 9 Physics and History
Source:
The One Culture?
Author(s):

Steven Weinberg

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226467245.003.0009

This chapter discusses the uses that historical and scientific knowledge have for each other, but first it wants to take up what may be a more unusual topic: the dangers that history poses for physics, and physics for history. The danger in history for the work of physics is that, in contemplating the great work of the past—great heroic revolutions like relativity, quantum mechanics, and so on—we develop such respect for them that we become unable to reassess their place in a final physical theory. General relativity provides a good example. As developed by Einstein in 1915, general relativity appears almost logically inevitable. One of its fundamental principles, the equivalence of gravitation and inertia, says that there is no difference between gravity and the effects of inertia such as centrifugal force. This principle of equivalence can be reformulated as the principle that gravity is just an effect of the curvature of space and time—a beautiful principle from which Einstein's theory of gravitation follows almost uniquely.

Keywords:   scientific knowledge, historical knowledge, physics, quantum mechanics, theory of gravitation, space and time

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