Thursday, October 06, 2005

Kuhnian revolution

From sci.environment:

If this were usenet 1995 I could probably start an interesting and non-polarized digression by musing about when the last actual instance of a Kuhnian paradigm shift occurred.

The rise of physical climatology and its uneasy relationship to the established field of observational/statistical climatology actually has something in common with a Kuhninan shift.

Certainly Bill Gray is the very model of the old guard in that regard, and Reid Bryson also is a good exemplar. But really that story is more about the rise of a wholly new discipline, and the capacity of some but not all parts of a related discipline to adapt to it. I think it would make a nice history of science project to examine this. I'd venture that the critical moments in the transition were around 1980 and that many of the crucial players are around to interview.

But it's a marginal case; not really a revolution so much as coming to terms with an invasion.

dboh suggests that discovery of a new forcing may be discovered which would amount to a revolution in climatology. It might rock the boat, but it's hard to imagine it amounting to a paradigm shift. Snowball earth rocked the boat, but it didn't change the paradigm.

What profound new discoveries in the past 50 years really changed the way of thinking of *any* quantitative science?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Belette said...

'ello. I didn't know this existed. I like the FD generator. Good luck in generating informed debate.

EliRabett said...

Well, the obvious one is DNA structure, which is in the process of making biology a quantitative science. I guess protein folding is not a separate, but an outgrowth.

Then you could add computational chemistry, which is rapidly reducing experiments to a confirmation technique (the pun on conformational is attractive).

Here again, the new ideas actually MADE qualitative sciences quantitative in a new ways.

Good luck on your new venture.

Google Page Rank 6 said...
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EliRabett said...

I should have added that I think you are exactly right about Bill Gray and that is an important point that Roger Pielke Jr. has missed.

Anonymous said...

John Fleck says -

The one that interests me as a journalist is plate tectonics in the 1960s. It remains exciting today (hence my journalistic interest) because you have a huge mass of geologic data that had been collected since the 19th century that is still in the process of being reevaluated. The mid-career geologists and geophysicists who make up the bulk of senior faculty leading the work today came of age during the revolution, and often still hold an enthusiasm shaped by the excitement of being a student with a ringside seat at the revolution.

Thomas Palm said...

Particle physics has seen some shifts over the decades, dthe discovery of quarks, for example. Our knowledge on the solar system, how it was formed and has developed changed a lot with space probes.

On the psychological level, the concept of the Earth as a small and fragile planet was improved by seeing pictures of it from space. No longer was it apparently infinite. This had had a huge impact on how we think.

I think computers and the way you now can simulate complex physical systems also should count as a paradigm shift.