Norman Robert Campbell was a venerable man in the history of scientific development. He was a well-known British physicist and philosopher of science whose main contribution to our scientific world was the distinction between scientific theories and laws. Norman was born in 1880 and received an incredible education at Eton, soon to be followed by his graduation from Trinity College. Normans accomplishments did not stop here, however. He worked at the Cavendish Laboratory for seven years under a man by the name of J.J. Thompson, who is thought to be his inspiration in the field of physics.
He later joined the staff of General Electric as a researcher after a short career at Leeds University. He abided at General Electric until 1944 and died five years later. Although Norman Campbell is considered to be a physicist, his main contributions were directed in the fields of philosophy because of his sapient writings on the analytical structure of theories, and the principles of experimental measurement. Norman gave a somewhat formal definition to both scientific theory and law. He defined scientific theory as a hypothesis formed by ideas that are subject to verification by measurement. He defined law as concepts whose effects could be determined by measurements.
Keep in mind, however, that a scientific law can not be formed unless it is first proven numerous times as a theory. Campbell divided all theories into mathematical and nonmathematical groups, and suggested the use of analogies to relate the question to phenomena that are already understood. These analogies essentially provide one with a hypothesis. Norman Campbells definition of the word theory is as follows: theory is the state of contemplation as distinct from the state of action, and it is perfectly correct to term theoretical discussions which can have no influence in active life. Essentially, his definition states that a theory does not have to be acted out on a living source. Theories have always been contemplated and tested, and often they do not involve any life forms other than the person researching them. Any proposed idea can be considered a theory, and Campbell does not limit this association to only highly tested fields. He says that anything can be assumed theoretical, and when it is disproved, a new theory will take its place.
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People, however, often connect the word theory with hypothesis, and these two words are distinctly different from one another. A hypothesis is a preposition based on opinion as to what is going to happen; thus, it has not been tested. A theory must have been tested through experimentation in order to be given such a title. Theories are connected together and distinguished based on sole characteristics, thus classifying them into two groups. The concepts of the theory are tested repetitively until they are proven factual, based on numerous accurate findings. However, one limitation starts the entire process over again, using hypotheses and dictionaries established by Norman to determine certain statuses.
These are fundamentally scientific manuals that ascertain the worth of a theoretical finding. An example of theory is the gas laws that we know of todaysuch as Boyles law or Gay-Lussacs law. The simplest form of these laws were started with the proposal of mans theories, as their establishment of law status came with recurrent tests and acceptance of distinguishable values, as well as acceptance of the prepositions by the dictionary. The key to distinguishing theories from laws is remembering that they are DIFFERENT. They are not synonymous to one another; rather, they are radically deviant. A law is an established fact of science, and experimentation will not change it.
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A theory is a proposed idea that varies depending on experimental results and acceptance by reliable determining sources, such as the dictionary. As we have learned since childhood, theories help to give great shape to our scientific knowledge. It seems we are always on the verge of new discoveries, and without experimental testing, we would be just as advanced as the earliest inhabitants of earth. Honors Physics has not directly discussed the background of theories, but we have covered it in a few instances. In our first segment of the semester, we studied the definitions of many relative words in science. We followed from the earliest signs of science all the way to where we are in todays society.
Would it be possible for us to be so knowledgeable in science without the developments of theories and laws? We also studied the scientific method, problem solving, and the determination of known values and constants. Section 1.3 directly states the difference between theory and law, as the title of the section is Scientific Laws and Theories. The text definition is slightly different from Campbells, but essentially, it states the same thing. The book says that a law is a statement that describes a natural behavior. It defines a theory as a reasonable explanation of observed events that are related. The rest of Chapter 1 is also quite relevant to the topic, for it discusses hypotheses and certainty in science. In addition, all of the formulas that we have studied were originally tested as theories, and then they were established as laws.
On a more obvious level, laws such as the law of conservation of energy are also great examples, as well as how the exact measurements of time and distances were established. It took years of experimentation to come up with such values, for the repetition required for endowment was astronomical. All of the things that we have learned in class are quite relevant to the topic that I researched. Although the definitions in the article were chartered much earlier than those in the textbook, they essentially relate the same interpretation. The Structure of Theories is a very relevant article for todays society. Many people are clueless as to their difference, and in the scientific picture, it is very important to understand such concepts.
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Having studied this topic numerous times, I felt that the article was slightly repetitive. However, for those who know nothing of the topic, it is very deserving. The article did catch my attention for a number of reasons, however. I was unaware of all of the work involved in establishing a law. I never thought about how accurate it must be, and thus was shocked to find how difficult and tedious such a process can become. People could spend their entire lives trying to find the answer to what seems a simple concept and still not establish any accomplishment on the grounds of scientific achievement.
As a direct result of this article, I have developed a much keener respect for the scientists in our history. They are well deserving of credit in my opinion. To think that after an entire century Campbells definition of a theory is still valid is amazing to me. He established something that grows deeper with time, but it will essentially possess the same literal translation for ages. We use theories on a daily basis, and yet still often forget to even think about how such a thing came about. After all, physics would be terribly difficult without the laws and theories that hand us information on a silver platter!