Logic & Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Bill Harper
University of Western Ontario

"Newton's Moon-test"

Huygens' seconds pendulum and the centripetal acceleration exhibited by the lunar orbit give agreeing measurements from which Newton infers that the force maintaining the moon in its orbit is inverse-square gravity toward the earth. I shall explore how Newton exploits the agreement of these measurements. I will argue that the cogency and interest of this classic inference survive an investigation into Richard Westfall's, famous, accusation that Newton fudged his data and the fact that Newton, clearly, did exaggerate the precision of the agreement achieved in the measurements. This investigation will help to illuminate the nature and value of the increased resiliency of parameter estimates which result from agreeing measurements by different phenomena. I shall argue that this helps defend Newton's methodology and the ideal of empirical success which is its guide.

Friday, October 4, 2002
SST 777
3 pm

Refreshments will be served