Ray's Post - Week 2: Galileo, Lehrer, Hazen & Trefil
Our readings this week help us investigate the origins of ‘science’ and some of the best examples of humans seeking to learn about the world using methods we still employ. In Two New Sciences, Galileo uses several creative means to explain the nature of constant motion, including diagrams and dialouge between loosely fictional characters, but maybe most important, logical reasoning. In the first chapter of Science Matters, Hazen and Trefil give an introductory historical check of science and the scientific model. The primary example they use is that of Isaac Newton, and his assertion of general yet universal laws that describe motion, something that ties all matter in the universe together. In Designing to Develop Disciplinary Disopositions, Lehrer details several vehicles by which a discussion of scientific phenomena can be communicated.
The most compelling concept I encountered during these readings is on page 161 of Two New Sciences, when Galileo says: “For I think no one believes that swimming or flying can be accomplished in a manner easier than that instinctively employed by fishes and birds (Galilei, 161).” Galileo’s message here is that nature itself displays the most simple and efficient ways of completing these tasks, and maybe on a more profound level, nature itself holds the simplest explanations possible to science and the workings of the universe. My thoughts when considering this idea hovered around the ideas of ‘simplicity’ and ‘intuition’. What exactly is the most ‘simple’ or efficient explanation? Is a method’s proximity to the its natural counterpart’s occurance also its proximity to ‘simplicity’? Is our intuition or instinct tied to whatever the simplest explanation of a phenomena is?
I read the rest of the readings with this concept in mind, and Hazen and Trefil directly reference one’s instinct’s when discussing the intuitive aspects of Newton’s Laws of Motion. Following The First Law, we read “Newton has hidden two important concepts in this intutitively obvious statement (Hazen, 9)” and following the second law, “This is a commonsense sort of law that embodies two intuitively reasonable ideas (Hazen, 10).” The beauty of Newton’s Laws of motion are twofold: our intuition (developed by our observation of the world, or is this innate within us?) leads us to accept these laws easily, and the universality of the laws show us that they apply to all bodies in the universe, without exception, provided they exist on a scale larger than the quantum scale.
Lehrer does not discuss this notion of our intuitive means to discovering the world explicitly, but the idea seems to lay implicitly in his descriptions of modes of modeling to best display phenomena to young students. If anything, he shows examples in which intuition fails—specifically, a class decided that worms populated a compost bin without must investigation but one student’s inquiry and investigation proved otherwise. Either way, this appeal to our internal, preconceived notions of the universe must have some credence when leading us to formulate our ideas of the objective world.