Arches and Scaffoldings: Continuity and Discontinuity in Building Relativity and Quantum Theory

Wednesday ,30 October, 2013 , 20:00 to 22:00

Lecture in Memory of Professor Mara Beller 

In principle, new theoretical structures in physics, unlike arches and other architectural structures, could be erected without any scaffolding. After all, that is essentially how the four-dimensional formalism of special relativity, the curved space-times of general relativity, and the Hilbert space formalism of quantum mechanics are introduced in modern textbooks. Historically, however, such structures, like arches, were first erected on top of the elaborate scaffolding provided by the structures they ultimately replaced. After briefly discussing prospects and limitations of this metaphor, some examples of arches and scaffoldings in the history of relativity and quantum theory are examined.


Within the framework of the Bar-Hillel Colloquium for the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science 2013-2014