The Niels Bohr Archive
History of Science Seminar
Wed 27 October 2010, 14.15
Aud. A, Niels Bohr Institute
Blegdamsvej 17, Copenhagen
Gregory A. Good
Director, Center for History of Physics
American Institute of Physics, College Park, U.S.A.
Geomagnetism, In Situ Measurements, Remote Sensing, and Proxy Data"
ABSTRACT: The usual problems of measurement and its meaning are complicated
and magnified when the object of study is in principle and in fact
inaccessible. When a phenomenon occurs in a place where our instruments
cannot reach, what can the relation between the instrument, its reading, and
the phenomenon be? This essay asks how researchers have addressed questions
about inaccessible processes of the Earth's magnetic field on and under its
surface and at the edge of space. This case takes us beyond simple contrasts
of inductive and deductive methods, or field sciences versus basic sciences,
to a messier, more nuanced view of inherently complex sciences. The talk
focuses on investigations of the Earth's magnetism and electricity, but its
perspectives are applicable to many areas of recent science.