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Dirac's Prediction of the Positron: A Case Study for the Current Realism Debate

Pashby, Thomas (2012) Dirac's Prediction of the Positron: A Case Study for the Current Realism Debate. pp. 440-475.

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Abstract

Much debate has ensued regarding the challenge to scientific realism provided by consideration of certain problematic episodes of theory change in the history of science. This paper contends that there is an interesting case which has been overlooked in this debate, namely the prediction of the positron by Dirac from his ‘hole’ theory, and its subsequent replacement by a theory which failed to contain a central, and essential, theoretical posit: the ‘Dirac sea’ of negative energy electrons. Accounting for this case with the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy of contemporary scientific realism proves particularly troublesome, even for the structural realist. [NB: pdf is freely available from MIT Press using link]


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Pashby, Thomastom.pashby@gmail.com
Keywords: scientific realism, Dirac, positron, Dirac sea, negative energy, structural realism
Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Dr. Thomas Pashby
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2016 15:20
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2016 15:20
Item ID: 12267
Publisher: MIT Press
Official URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/PO...
Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 2012
Page Range: pp. 440-475
Volume: 20
Number: 4
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/12267

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