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The Restless universe
Introduction to The restless Universe

1 The lawful Universe

1.1 Science and regularity 1/2

» 1.1 Science and regularity 2/2

1.2 Mathematics and quantification 1/2

1.2 Mathematics and quantification 2/2

2 The clockwork Universe

3 The irreversible Universe

4 The intangible Universe

5 The uncertain Universe

6 Closing items

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Other titles in the Physical World series

Describing motion

Predicting motion

Classical physics of matter

Static fields and potentials

Dynamic fields and waves

Quantum physics: an introduction

Quantum physics of matter

1 The lawful Universe

1.1 Science and regularity

Part 1 of 2 | Part 2

For a printable version of '1 The lawful Universe' click here

One of the first scientists to make frequent use of the concept of a law of Nature, in the sense that we now use that term, was the Franciscan friar and scholar Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1292).
Roger BaconFigure 1.1 Roger Bacon
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Bacon is traditionally credited with the invention of the magnifying glass, but he is best remembered as an effective advocate of the scientific method and a follower of the maxim ‘Cease to be ruled by dogmas and authorities; look at the world!’ He lived at a time when the commonly accepted view of the world was fundamentally religious, and the Catholic church to which he belonged was coming to embrace the authority of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle on matters pertaining to physics and astronomy. Bacon’s independence of mind brought him into conflict with the church, and he suffered fifteen years of imprisonment for heresy. Nonetheless, he helped to prepare the way for those who, irrespective of their own religious beliefs, insisted that the scientific investigation of Nature should be rooted in experiment and conducted on a purely rational basis, without reference to dogmatic authority.

Laws of Nature are now a central part of science. Carefully defined concepts, often expressed in mathematical terms, are related by natural laws which are themselves often expressed in a mathematical form. Just what those laws are is a central concern of physicists, who see their branch of science as the one most directly concerned with discovering and applying the fundamental laws of Nature. Improvements in our knowledge of natural laws have repeatedly led to a broadening and a deepening of our understanding of the physical world and hence to a change in the scientific world-view. However, the fundamental requirement that the laws should be rational and rooted in experiment has survived all changes to the detailed content of those laws.
Continue on to 1.2 Mathematics and quantification

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Index

S207 The Physical World
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