Page 1

Thematic Language and Science Monday, March 3, 14

TOK 11-1 Mr. Glover


Quotes • Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone. Albert Einstein • In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite. Paul Dirac • When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images. Niels Bohr • Men suppose their reason has command over their words; still it happens that words in return exercise authority on reason. Sir Francis Bacon • A lot of words in English confuse the idea of life and electricity, like the word livewire. Laurie Anderson • We are all mediators, translators. Jacques Derrida Monday, March 3, 14


The Language of Science

Might this be seen as the •Science doesn’t have a language, people language of science? have a language... To what extent do

you agree? Can you provide examples to support your view?

Monday, March 3, 14


Talking about the world ... • Einstein suggested that:

•Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone. Albert Einstein •Choose a simple theory and try to explain it to your partner.

Monday, March 3, 14


Talking about the world ... Partner A: Choose a theory and explain it using simple language. Partner B: Identify as many words as you can that have multiple meanings or which are open to interpretation. As a pair refine your explanation so that it gains clarity, becomes less ambiguous and then share it with another pair in your group.

Monday, March 3, 14


• What conclusions are you able to reach about scientific language? • Were you able to outline the theory with absolute clarity using plain language? • How/Why might symbolic language have been able to help you in this process? • What does this imply about language as a WOK in the natural sciences? • Despite the lack of absolute clarity, were you nonetheless able to explain the basic ideas of your theory to your group-mates? • What conclusions do you reach about language as a WOK in the natural science as a result of this process?

Monday, March 3, 14


Language as Metaphor •Neils Bohr suggests that “when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images”. •You have already seen that everyday language cannot communicate ideas with absolute clarity yet despite this, is nonetheless able to communicate complex ideas in simple terms. •Consider the following example of a specific scientific theory using the shrodinger equation... Monday, March 3, 14


Shrodinger’s Equation • The Schrödinger equation is a mathematical formula that forms the basis of quantum mechanics, the most accurate theory of how subatomic particles behave. It is a mathematical equation that was thought of by Erwin Schrödinger in 1925. It defines something called the wavefunction of a particle or system (group of particles) which has a certain value at every point in space for every given time. These values have no physical meaning, yet the wavefunction contains all information that can be known about a particle or system. This information can be found by mathematically manipulating the wavefunction to return real values relating to physical properties such as position, momentum(mass times velocity), energy, etc. The wavefunction can be thought of as a picture of how this particle or system acts with time and describes it as fully as possible. • The wavefunction can be in a number of different states, and so a particle may have one of many different positions, energies, velocities or other physical property. However, when one of these properties is measured it has only one specific value (which cannot be definitely predicted), and the wavefunction is therefore in just one specific state. This is called wavefunction collapse and seems to be caused by the act of observation or measurement. The exact cause and interpretation of wavefunction collapse is still widely debated in the scientific community. Monday, March 3, 14


Shrodinger’s Equation

Now that you have read through the theory, explore its implications with your partner...

Monday, March 3, 14


Monday, March 3, 14


How did you do? Okay I acknowledge that the words can have multiple meanings and as such are confusing, so here is the whole equation to help you in your explanation....

Monday, March 3, 14


The Shrodinger experiment using metaphor

Link Monday, March 3, 14


•Now try to discuss the implications of the theory. •Which explanation did you find most helpful? •Why is this do you think? •What are the implications for Language as a WOK in the natural sciences? Monday, March 3, 14


Monday, March 3, 14


• When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images. Niels Bohr • To what extent do you agree with Bohr? • How do metaphor and imagery help you to explore and explain scientific ideas? • To what extent are these metaphors “doorways” into new and unexplored ideas? • If all words are models of reality then can we ever really communicate our ideas with absolute clarity? • What implications does this have on language as a WOK in the natural sciences? Monday, March 3, 14


Reason or Words • Men suppose their reason has command over their words; still it happens that words in return exercise authority on reason. Sir Francis Bacon • What do you think the above quote means? • Two main schools of thought about language suggest that there are two main ways in which language communicates. • Semantics is the study of meaning that is used for understanding human expression through language and suggests that word meaning is more important than structure. • Syntax is the study of the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages and suggests that grammar and structure of sentences is more important than meaning. • Which of these two approaches do you think has more influence on our ability to understand and communicate with each other? Monday, March 3, 14


Semantics • Semantic theory suggests that every word can be divided into two categories: • that which it denotes i.e. its dictionary definition • and that which it connotes i.e. the things we associate with it • The word force used in the sentence, “He forced me to study.” would denote the power to influence but is associated with: • physical power or strength possessed by a living being: He used all his force in opening the window. • strength or power exerted upon an object; physical coercion; violence: to use force to open the window; to use force on a person. • strength; energy; power; intensity: a personality of great force. • power to influence, affect, or control; efficacious power: the force of circumstances; a force for law and order. • Law. unlawful violence threatened or committed against persons or property.

Monday, March 3, 14


Semantics

Used correctly force has a specific scientific meaning allowing clear communication of ideas.

However, in science the following is a definition of force: A force is a push or pull upon an object resulting from the object's interaction with another object. Whenever there is an interaction between two objects, there is a force upon each of the objects. When the interaction ceases, the two objects no longer experience the force. Forces only exist as a result of an interaction. Even in science force has multiple denotations - Link making it important for the scientist to use it correctly.

Monday, March 3, 14


Syntax • In syntactic theory the structure and rules of a language are said to directly influence our ability to construct and communicate ideas. Some supporters of this approach suggest that language structure forms meaning. • Consider the following poem by Lewis Carol: “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.” • Identify the verbs, nouns, adjectives. • Propose a meaning for the poem. Almost all the words are new to you yet you are still able to read this. Why do you think this is? • How about the following?

Monday, March 3, 14


Syntax cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseaethe huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it

Monday, March 3, 14


7H15 M3554G3 53RV35 7O PR0V3

Syntax

H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5! 1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5! 1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG 17 WA5 H4RD BU7 N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3 Y0UR M1ND 1S R34D1NG 17 4U70M471C4LLY W17H 0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17, B3 PROUD! 0NLY C3R741N P30PL3 C4N R3AD 7H15.

Monday, March 3, 14


Language Structure and Thought • Language then can be viewed within three major different categories: as primarily a structure, in and of itself, as primarily meanings, in and of themselves, or as a melding of the two, forming a tool that allows the communication of ideas, and so of reason. • If language exists first and foremost as a structure, then one thing is prevalent: that all languages are fundamentally structure. • Although with the diversity of languages comes a certain diversity of structures, the fact remains that all languages exist within their own constructed form, not in any form of void. Language then, as one whole, logical, universal,formal structure would seem to exist then outside of humankind, within nature itself. • Relate this to Bacon’s idea that: “Men suppose their reason has command over their words; still it happens that words in return exercise authority on reason.”

Monday, March 3, 14


Summary • We can use plain language to explain scientific ideas but this plain language only allows us to access the basic ideas of a theory. • Metaphors can be used as a powerful tool in evoking insights into complex ideas, but there effectiveness is based on our ability to interpret them. • The structure of our language influences our ability to communicate and understand messages, as do the multiple meanings of the words we use. • Using language implies interpreting language and in all interpretation there is the likelihood of multiple interpretation. • Scientists can use more specific concepts and equations to clearly explore the intricacies of the theories with other scientists, but have to translate these ideas into simple language when explaining their ideas to non-scientists. Monday, March 3, 14


TOK • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Language as a WOK in the natural sciences referencing the following quotation:

•We are all mediators, translators. Jacques Derrida •How might scientists add to the clarity of their communication? •How should we approach plain language explanations of complex scientific ideas? •What is the role of metaphor in communicating scientific ideas? Monday, March 3, 14


Language and the Natural Sciences TOK  
Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you