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The Machine Speaks Falsely

Franklin, Allan (2010) The Machine Speaks Falsely. Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, 4 (1). pp. 71-84. ISSN 1913-0465

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Abstract

How can one determine if an experimental apparatus is giving an incorrect result, if it is speaking falsely? An interesting example of this occurred in the experimental investigation, in the early twentieth century, of the energy spectrum of electrons emitted in β decay. Meitner and her collaborators (1911), using photographic detection, found that all the electrons emitted by a single radioactive element were monoenergetic. Chadwick (1914), on the other hand, using either an ionization chamber or a Geiger counter, found a continuous energy spectrum. Meitner et al. proposed various mechanisms whereby initially monoenergetic electrons might lose energy. These were shown to be unsatisfactory, although the possibility of an unknown mechanism for energy loss remained. In 1927 Ellis and Wooster, using a total-absorption calorimeter, which eliminated all of these possibilities, demonstrated that the energy spectrum was indeed continuous. It had taken fifteen years to show that the photographic detection had spoken falsely.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Franklin, Allan
Keywords: Scientific Realism; Epistemic Issues; Epistemology of Science
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Technology
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Jordan Miller
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2021 03:03
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2021 03:03
Item ID: 17902
Journal or Publication Title: Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science
Publisher: The University of Toronto
Official URL: https://spontaneousgenerations.library.utoronto.ca...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.4245/sponge.v4i1.11333
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Technology
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: 30 August 2010
Page Range: pp. 71-84
Volume: 4
Number: 1
ISSN: 1913-0465
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17902

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