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A Shadow History of Demons in Science

Jimena Canales

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Naturwissenschaften, Medizin, Informatik, Technik / Naturwissenschaften allgemein


How scientists through the ages have conducted thought experiments using imaginary entities—demons—to test the laws of nature and push the frontiers of what is possible

Science may be known for banishing the demons of superstition from the modern world. Yet just as the demon-haunted world was being exorcized by the enlightening power of reason, a new kind of demon mischievously materialized in the scientific imagination itself. Scientists began to employ hypothetical beings to perform certain roles in thought experiments—experiments that can only be done in the imagination—and these impish assistants helped scientists achieve major breakthroughs that pushed forward the frontiers of science and technology.

Spanning four centuries of discovery—from René Descartes, whose demon could hijack sensorial reality, to James Clerk Maxwell, whose molecular-sized demon deftly broke the second law of thermodynamics, to Darwin, Einstein, Feynman, and beyond—Jimena Canales tells a shadow history of science and the demons that bedevil it. She reveals how the greatest scientific thinkers used demons to explore problems, test the limits of what is possible, and better understand nature. Their imaginary familiars helped unlock the secrets of entropy, heredity, relativity, quantum mechanics, and other scientific wonders—and continue to inspire breakthroughs in the realms of computer science, artificial intelligence, and economics today.

The world may no longer be haunted as it once was, but the demons of the scientific imagination are alive and well, continuing to play a vital role in scientists' efforts to explore the unknown and make the impossible real.

Weitere Titel von diesem Autor



Reason, John von Neumann, Theory of relativity, Richard Feynman, Philosophy, Narrative, Uncertainty, Automaton, Emergence, Dissipation, Evil demon, Illustration, Gravity, Atomic physics, Scientific American, Quantity, Scientist, Quantum indeterminacy, Physicist, Biologist, Thought, Scientific progress, Laws of thermodynamics, On the Origin of Species, Max Born, Phenomenon, Explanation, Information theory, Thought experiment, Thermodynamics, Lecture, Existence, Measurement, Fiction, Louis de Broglie, Materialism, Reality, Nuclear power, Alhazen, Modern physics, Entropy, Max Planck, Quantum mechanics, Physical law, Statistical mechanics, The Philosopher, Ad hoc hypothesis, Thomas Kuhn, Biology, Legendary creature, Maxwell's demon, World War II, Grete Hermann, Astronomy, Instant, Treatise, Classical physics, Uncertainty principle, Brownian motion, Werner Heisenberg, Henri Bergson, Technology, Result, Theory, Modern philosophy, Mathematician, Logical positivism, Inference, Grimoire, Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton, Theory of heat, Irrationality, Molecule, Eugene Wigner, Laplace's demon, Interpretations of quantum mechanics, Calculation, Communication theory, Subatomic particle, Science, Hypothesis, Charles Darwin, Karl Pearson, Perpetual motion, Theoretical physics, Second law of thermodynamics, Photon, The New York Times, Philosopher, Astronomer, Cybernetics, Probability, Time travel, Irreversible process, Temperature, Microscope, Prediction, Copyright, Organism, Disaster