Philosophy of science


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Beauty and aesthetics Bioethics Comparative philosophy Cosmopolitanism Death Ethics History of ideas Knowledge Logic and probability Meaning and the good life Metaphysics Philosophy of language Philosophy of mind Philosophy of religion Philosophy of science Political philosophy Thinkers and theories Values and beliefs Virtues and vices

Illustration by Claire Scully

Essay/
History of ideas
Physics’s pangolin

Trying to resolve the stubborn paradoxes of their field, physicists craft ever more mind-boggling visions of reality

Margaret Wertheim

Illustration by Claire Scully

Essay/
Astronomy
In the beginning

Cosmology has been on a long, hot streak, racking up one imaginative and scientific triumph after another. Is it over?

Ross Andersen

Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Essay/
Philosophy of science
Is the Universe a conscious mind?

Cosmopsychism might seem crazy, but it provides a robust explanatory model for how the Universe became fine-tuned for life

Philip Goff

‘On this view, a dust grain is actually a little galaxy of collapse points, winking instantaneously in and out of existence’

Essay/
Philosophy of science
Our quantum problem

When the deepest theory we have seems to undermine science itself, some kind of collapse looks inevitable

Adrian Kent

From Saturn’s rings, Earth is seen as a distant shining light (centre) in this image taken by the Cassini spacecraft. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL

Essay/
Cosmology
The calibrated cosmos

Is our Universe fine-tuned for the existence of life – or does it just look that way from where we’re sitting?

Tim Maudlin

Photo by Benjamin Couprie/Wikimedia. Color by Sanna Dullaway

Essay/
Language and linguistics
Absolute English

Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?

Michael D Gordin

Wassily Kandinsky Composition VIII. July 1923. Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012

Essay/
Philosophy of science
Who knows what

For decades the sciences and the humanities have fought for knowledge supremacy. Both sides are wrong-headed

Massimo Pigliucci

Demonstration being carried out of the E-Cat (Energy Catalyzer) cold fusion system, designed by Italian inventor Andrea Rossi. Photo by Massimo Brega/SPL

Essay/
Philosophy of science
The cold fusion horizon

Is cold fusion truly impossible, or is it just that no respectable scientist can risk their reputation working on it?

Huw Price

Spaceborne Imaging Radar photo of the autonomous republic of Tuva, the subject of Richard Feynmann’s intense interest during the latter part of his life and documented in Tuva or Bust! by Ralph Leighton. Photo taken from Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL

Idea/
Thinkers and theories
Richard Feynman was wrong about beauty and truth in science

Massimo Pigliucci

Photo by Andia/UIG via Getty Images

Essay/
Philosophy of science
The blind spot

It’s tempting to think science gives a God’s-eye view of reality. But we forget the place of human experience at our peril

Adam Frank, Marcelo Gleiser & Evan Thompson

Illustration by Clayton Junior

Essay/
Philosophy of science
Too many worlds

Nobody knows what happens inside quantum experiments. So why are some so keen to believe in parallel universes?

Philip Ball

Photo by Getty

Essay/
Logic and probability
Why is simpler better?

Ockham’s Razor says that simplicity is a scientific virtue, but justifying this philosophically is strangely elusive

Elliott Sober

Photo by Gallery Stock

Essay/
Logic and probability
Why things happen

Either cause and effect are the very glue of the cosmos, or they are a naive illusion due to insufficient math. But which?

Mathias Frisch

The teleologians: Plato (left) and Aristotle in Raphael’s The School of Athens. Photo by Ted Spiegel/Corbis

Essay/
History of ideas
Your point is?

Science can’t stop talking in terms of ‘purposes’, but if the universe cares about us, it has a funny way of showing it

Steven Poole

String Theory suggests that our universe may be like a page in a book, stacked alongside tens of trillions of others. Those other realities would be right next to us now. Photo by the Esch Collection/Getty

Essay/
Philosophy of science
World next door

Nine theories of the multiverse promise everything and more. But if reality is so vast and varied, where do we fit in?

Michael Hanlon

Parallax (Candles) (1951). Courtesy the Estate of Berenice Abbott/Getty Images

Essay/
Philosophy of science
But is it science?

Theoretical physicists who say the multiverse exists set a dangerous precedent: science based on zero empirical evidence

Jim Baggott

Tyrannosaurus Rex - a feathered beast. Illustration by Richard Wilkinson

Essay/
Biology
Paradigms lost

Science is not a ‘body of knowledge’ – it’s a dynamic, ongoing reconfiguration of knowledge and must be free to change

David P Barash

Uranus photographed by Voyager 2 in January 1986. Photo courtesy NASA

Essay/
History of science
What is good science?

Demanding that a theory is falsifiable or observable, without any subtlety, will hold science back. We need madcap ideas

Adam Becker

Theoretically beautiful; geometrically pruned trees, Leer, Germany. Photo by Karl Johaentges/Getty

Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
Beauty ≠ truth

Scientists prize elegant theories, but a taste for simplicity is a treacherous guide. And it doesn’t even look good

Philip Ball

Italians? Rome, 1978. Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum

Essay/
Social psychology
Truth in stereotypes

Social scientists dismiss them, but rather than being universally inaccurate, stereotypes are often grounded in reality

Lee Jussim

Photo by Peter Marlow/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of science
What’s everything made of?

To answer whether the fundamental building blocks of reality are particles, fields or both means thinking beyond physics

Charles Sebens

Out of time; ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan at the practice table during the German Masters snooker tournament at the Tempodrom in Berlin. Photo by Stefan Boness/Ipon/Panos

Essay/
Physics
The ABC of time

In our Universe, time seems to go from past to future, not in reverse. But what if time doesn’t even have a direction?

Matt Farr