Category Archives: Science

Thought Experiments

Publications pertinent to thought experiments include: Thought Experiments in Methodological and Historical Contexts edited by Katerina Ierodiakonou and Sophie Roux, Thought Experiments by Roy A. Sorensen, Thought Experiments by James Robert Brown and Yiftach Fehige, Thought Experiments by Tamar S. Gendler, Thought Experiments: Determining their Meaning by Igal Galili, Thought Experiments in Science and Philosophy by Tamara Horowitz and Gerald Massey and Thought Experiments in Science, Philosophy, and Mathematics by James R. Brown.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments, epistemology and imagination include: An Epistemological Role for Thought Experiments by Michael Bishop, Imagination and Epistemology by Jonathan Ichikawa, Imagination and Insight: A New Account of the Content of Thought Experiments by Letitia Meynell, When an Image Turns Into Knowledge: The Role of Visualization in Thought Experimentation by Miriam Reiner and John Gilbert, Interrogation of a Dynamic Visualization During Learning by Richard K. Lowe, Imagery and Mental Processes by Allan Paivio, Dynamics of Brain Processing During Mental Imagery by Livia Tomova, Voluntary and Automatic Attentional Control of Visual Working Memory by Brandon K. Schmidt, Geoffrey F. Woodman, Edward K. Vogel and Steven J. Luck, Perceptual Simulation in Conceptual Tasks by Lawrence W. Barsalou, Karen O. Solomon and Ling-Ling Wu, Situated Simulation in the Human Conceptual System by Lawrence W. Barsalou, Using Imagination to Understand the Neural Basis of Episodic Memory by Demis Hassabis, Dharshan Kumaran and Eleanor A. Maguire and Episodic and Semantic Memory by Endel Tulving.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments and argumentation include: Why Thought Experiments are not Arguments by Michael A. Bishop, On Thought Experiments: Is There More to the Argument? by John D. Norton and Intuition Pumps and the Proper Use of Thought Experiments by Elke Brendel.

Publications pertinent to mathematical thought experiments, argumentation and creativity include: Deiknymi by Jan Gonda, On the First Greek Mathematical Proof by Vassilis Karasmanis, On Mathematical Thought Experiments by Marco Buzzoni, Thought Experimentation and Mathematical Innovation by Eduard Glas, The Varieties of Mathematical Explanation by Paolo Mancosu and Johannes Hafner, The Meaning of Proof in Mathematics Education by David A. Reid, Proof and Proving in Mathematics Education by Maria A. Mariotti, The Role of Mental Argumentation in Mathematics Vis-à-vis Property Perception and the Operational Mode by Joanna Mamona-Downs, Necessary Realignments from Mental Argumentation to Proof Presentation by Joanna Mamona-Downs and Martin Downs, Representation of Mathematical Concepts for Inferencing and for Presentation Purposes by Martin Pollet, Andreas Franke, Armin Fiedler, Helmut Horacek, Markus Moschner and Volker Sorge, Making Actions in the Proving Process Explicit, Visible, and “Reflectable” by Kerry McKee, Milos Savic, John Selden and Annie Selden, Granularity-adaptive Proof Presentation by Christoph Benzmüller and Marvin Schiller and Interpretation of Scientific or Mathematical Concepts: Cognitive Issues and Instructional Implications by Frederick Reif.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments and science include: Tracing the Development of Thought Experiments in the Philosophy of the Natural Sciences by Aspasia S. Moue, Kyriakos A. Masavetas and Haido Karayianni, Thought Experiment in the Natural Sciences by Marco Buzzoni, Galileo and the Indispensability of Scientific Thought Experiment by Tamar S. Gendler, Thought Experiments Since the Scientific Revolution by James R. Brown, Thought Experiments in Scientific Reasoning by Andrew D. Irvine, The Role of Imagistic Simulation in Scientific Thought Experiments by John J. Clement, The Nature and Role of Thought Experiments in Solving Conceptual Physics Problems by Şule Dönertaş Kösem and Ömer Faruk Özdemir, The Evidential Significance of Thought Experiment in Science by James W. McAllister, Why Thought Experiments do not Transcend Empiricism by John D. Norton, Experimentation and the Meaning of Scientific Concepts by Theodore Arabatzis, Thought Experiments and Physics Education by Hugh Helm, John Gilbert and D. Michael Watts, The Context of Thought Experiments in Physics Learning by Miriam Reiner, Thought Experiments in Science and in Science Education by Mervi A. Asikainen and Pekka E. Hirvonen, Thought Experiments in Science Education: Potential and Current Realization by John K. Gilbert and Miriam Reiner, Understanding and Teaching Important Scientific Thought Processes by Frederick Reif, Visualization: A Metacognitive Skill in Science and Science Education by John K. Gilbert, Prospects for Scientific Visualization as an Educational Technology by Douglas N. Gordin and Roy D. Pea and Mental Models: Theoretical Issues for Visualizations in Science Education by David N. Rapp.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments and mental models: Mental Models and Thought Experiments by Nenad Miščević, Thought Experiments and Conceptual Revision by Ian Winchester, Mental Models, Conceptual Models, and Modelling by Ileana M. Greca and Marco A. Moreira, Model Building for Conceptual Change by David Jonassen, Johannes Strobel and Joshua Gottdenker, Model-based Reasoning in Conceptual Change by Nancy J. Nersessian, Mental Modeling in Conceptual Change by Nancy J. Nersessian and Thought Experiments and the Belief in Phenomena by James W. McAllister.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments, linguistics and pragmatics include: Thought Experiments in Linguistics by Sarah G. Thomason, Data and Evidence in Linguistics: A Plausible Argumentation Model by András Kertész and Csilla R. Kosi, From Thought Experiments to Real Experiments in Pragmatics by András Kertész and Ferenc Kiefer, The Puzzle of Thought Experiments in Conceptual Metaphor Research by András Kertész and Pragmatic Evidence, Context, and Story Design: An Essay on Recent Developments in Experimental Pragmatics by Jörg Meibauer.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments and philosophy include: Thought Experiments in Philosophy by Soren Haggqvist, Philosophical Thought Experiments, Intuitions, and Cognitive Equilibrium by Tamar S. Gendler, Intuition, Imagination, and Philosophical Methodology by Tamar S. Gendler and Philosophical Thought Experiments as Excercises in Conceptual Analysis by Christian Nimtz.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments and ethics include: The Gedankenexperiment Method of Ethics by Michael W. Jackson, The Role of Imaginary Cases in Ethics by Jonathan Dancy and Variations in Ethical Intuitions by Jennifer L. Zamzow and Shaun Nichols.

Publications pertinent to thought experiments and narrative include: Thought Experiments, Hypotheses, and Cognitive Dimension of Literary Fiction by Iris Vidmar, Thought Experiments and Fictional Narratives by David Davies, Fiction as Thought Experiment by Catherine Z. Elgin, Narrative Experiments and Imaginative Inquiry by Noel Gough and The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination by Robert Coles.


Machine Ethics

Machine ethics, sometimes referred to as computational ethics or computational morality, is an application of automated reasoning and reasoning systems to ethics and to ethical reasoning.

Case-based reasoning, the process of solving new problems utilizing the solutions of similar past problems, storing knowledge in cases, has been of use to the design and development of machine ethics systems.  Case-based reasoning includes the components of: retrieval, given a target problem, retrieving from memory the cases relevant to solving it, reuse, mapping a solution from a previous case to the target problem possibly adapting the solution, revision, testing the new solution, and retention, storing as needed resulting knowledge.  The aforementioned components are described in Case-Based Reasoning: Foundational Issues, Methodological Variations, and System Approaches by Agnar Aamodt and Enric Plaza and Retrieval, Reuse, Revision, and Retention in Case-based Reasoning by Ramon López de Mántaras, David McSherry, Derek Bridge, David Leake, Barry Smyth, Susan Craw, Boi Faltings, Mary Lou Maher, Michael T. Cox, Kenneth Forbus, Mark Keane, Agnar Aamodt and Ian Watson.

Argumentation can enhance each component of case-based reasoning and such uses of argumentation can address many of the criticisms of case-based reasoning and of casuistry.

Argumentation formats can facilitate the exchange of knowledge between systems, reasoning systems, case-based reasoning systems and ethical reasoning systems.  Creating and versioning knowledge representation and interchange formats can enhance the interoperability between systems and can enhance the utility of input data, intermediate computation, and output results.  Case-based reasoning cases can additionally be represented and interchanged with standard formats.

The topics resemble those discussed at the PxTP conferences with regard to automated theorem provers.  Multiple ethical reasoning systems should be constructed and conferences and competitions between ethical reasoning systems should be organized, modeled after the successes of automated theorem proving conferences (CADE and CASC).

Machine ethics, computational ethics, computational morality, technologies are applicable to digital textbook development processes.  Just as automated theorem proving and automated reasoning can generate and verify mathematical proofs and scientific explanations, justifications and arguments for mathematics and science digital textbooks, just as automated reasoning can provide and enhance features for such digital textbooks, computational ethics and argumentation technologies, in general, can generate and verify the explanations, justifications and arguments in and can provide and enhance features for the digital textbooks of a broader set of subjects including character, ethics, philosophy, law and law history.

Digital Textbooks and Curricula

Television and films have literary, cultural and ethical themes, and, while that aspect of culture, of literature, is known well to scholars, American public schools have yet to include ethics curricula.

In addition to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, secular multicultural ethics curricula in American public schools is a topic of interest. Due to numerous legal precedents in the United States, the adjectives secular and multicultural are indicated when describing the niche of public school digital textbooks about morality, ethics, and character. With upcoming transitions to digital textbooks, there has never been as opportune a time for discussions about modernizing American public school curricula.

With regard to curricula, I advocate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects and I advocate the subjects of leadership studies, ethics, and argumentation with other themes including: individualism as opposed to conformity, leadership skills, public speaking skills, video blogging and conferencing skills, social comfort expressing opinion or disagreement, debate and argumentation, including as group processes, which can ensure better summations of moral compasses and that reason prevails.

Townhalls enhance communities and Thomas Jefferson referred to townhalls as “the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government.” In the past, when American towns had more vibrant townhalls, attendance and participation were as implicit forms of education and, at some point in the past, townhall meetings decreased in use. Our public schools can equip students to make fuller use of their townhalls and Web.

In Finding “The Right Way”: Toward an Army Institutional Ethic, LTC Clark C. Barrett suggests that “the U.S. Army profession’s most worrisome cultural shortcoming is the lack of a codified institutional ethic and a means of peer-to-peer self-governance.” The publication “describes the problem, provides a review of the literature, and supplies and justifies a proposed institutional and individual Army Ethic” ( and indicates a that some ethical lapses indicate “a potentially devastating cultural shortcoming” ( Such observations may be, in fact, societal, extending across sectors, and public school education topics are where solutions to the identified problems can be arrived at.

Digital textbooks discussing ethics can be authored for extended existing courses, such as social studies, or can be authored for new courses, for example based on leadership studies. The curricula and digital textbooks under discussion are not mutually exclusive to any family or community activities and, furthermore, secular and multicultural public school curricula on the topics of morality, ethics and character can start conversations in homes whenever parents ask their children about how their schooldays went. An inclusive competition to create digital textbooks, as aforementioned, in accordance with the laws and court precedents of the United States, for state and local public school schoolboard selection processes, can effectively commence.

To the broader topics of education technology and digital textbooks, in general, some other discussion topics include: capitalist marketplace, digital textbook selection processes (, consumer feedback, and consumer advocacy. With the Web, new forms of consumer feedback and advocacy are possible (,; I recently wrote to several consumer advocacy groups about how consumer advocacy groups could each independently spider, index, utilize, and make available on their websites blog articles and tweets with certain keywords or folksonomic tags, e.g. “bbb” or “#bbb”.

Additionally, new blogging platform features can facilitate pinging organizations, per article ( Consumers’, parents’, teachers’, and scholars’ commentary, feedback, and opinion, about digital textbooks and curricula could be specifically routed, as indicated by each blogger, empowering bloggers and adding value to numerous organizations’ websites including those of consumer advocacy groups, teachers’ and other education-related organizations.

Teachers encounter digital textbooks occupationally and a policy topic, Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), is discussed by the American Association of University Professors at: . Legislation can and should be enacted to ensure and affirm academic freedoms, freedom of speech, including, specifically, professors’ and K-12 educators’ extramural free speech when commenting on, discussing, applauding or criticizing portions of digital textbook content, curricula, and other education-related topics, for example on their blogs, as protected free speech. In addition to addressing Garcetti v. Ceballos, and in addition to restoring or enhancing the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the federal government can and should seek to ensure and affirm that extramural discussion of textbooks and curricula by teachers is protected free speech.

Combinations of parents’, teachers’, scholars’ and scientists’ commentary, feedback and opinion about the digital textbooks and curricula of each course of study can be spidered, indexed, utilized, and presented on the Web. While hyperlinks can be of use for opening digital textbooks to specific pages and object configurations, some bloggers might want to additionally make use of quotes or multimedia clips on their blogs during fair use scenarios.

With the advancements from textbooks to digital textbooks, there are, in addition to text content topics, hypertext content topics, multimedia content topics, video content topics, and, if textbook production teams want to include interviews with people, additional sociological and political topics. Uses of video in digital textbooks include: the reading of or the narration of hypertext passages, educational video content resembling educational television segments, scenarios with actors doing group sketches for classroom discussions and interviews with people or groups of people from society relaying their observations or wisdom, including scholars.

With regard to sketches for classroom discussion, we can anticipate correlations between such classroom activities and other important sociological skills as students observe, consider and discuss the behaviors of people in depicted situations.

With regard to interviews and panel discussions, we can observe that a sociology of celebrity or politics of celebrity has existed since before radio and television. Some have commented about which guests have appeared on television news shows and we can observe that a subset of all possible guests have appeared on the History Channel. With digital textbooks, however, each of numerous production teams can choose whom they would like to interview and each interviewee can choose with which production teams they would like to participate. In my opinion, exploring the breadth of society for such interviews would result in higher quality digital textbooks. People from all walks of life can be interviewed: businesspeople, scholars, scientists, policemen, firemen, military personnel, from accountants to zoologists.

Multimedia digital textbooks, containing hypertext, video and 3D graphics, could be larger in size, possibly 50, 100, 128 or more gigabytes in size, resembling the capacities of Blu-ray discs. Additionally, digital textbooks can hyperlink to Web content. With bonus materials, independent learning materials, hyperlinked to Web content, and other supplemental content and materials, including for teachers, the total content per digital textbook product can be much more than can fit into the total classroom time of an academic quarter or semester.

Future Americans, skeptical, critical thinking Americans, will reason about matters of their day, matters of importance including morality and ethics, individually and in groups, will speak and assemble freely, engage in civil discourse, argue and debate with one another and in new ways utilizing technology, utilizing the Web.

With upcoming technologies, we can expect empowered communities, consumers, parents, and teachers, and enhanced educational systems. With the new topics of multimedia and video with digital textbooks, capitalist marketplace, digital textbook selection processes, consumer feedback, and consumer advocacy are posited to ensure numerous competitive, quality options for empowering, equipping and enhancing communities, consumers, parents, teachers and educational systems.

Argumentation and Science

The history of science includes continuous changes to the meanings of concepts, often fundamental to our understanding of the universe, over time.  By representing and storing both contemporary and historical scientific knowledge, mechanical reasoners can better infer the very processes of science. Mechanical reasoners can devise theories and models, identify when anomalous data suggest formulating new theories and models, and formulate questions to determine which of several commensurate theories or models best describe a universe.

A repository of contemporary and historical scientific knowledge, in a machine-readable format, can enhance both science education and the development of such mechanical reasoning artifacts.

Philosophy of science topics include: confirmation holism, coherentism, contextualism, conventionalism, deductive-nomological model, determinism, empiricism, fallibilism, foundationalism, hypothetico-deductive model, infinitism, instrumentalism, positivism, pragmatism, rationalism, received view of theories, reductionism, semantic view of theories, scientific realism, scientism, scientific anti-realism, skepticism, uniformitarianism, vitalism, metaphysics.

The semantic view of theories indicates models as relating to theories.  Each concept’s or theory’s definition includes, beyond semantics, logic and mathematics, its inclusion in a set of models.  Each model contains a set of interoperating concepts and theories.

Semantic holism describes that the meaning of concepts may arise from their relationships within models.  Incommensurability of meaning can arise when argument participants use language from different models.

As models can be represented by means of distributed field- or topic-specific files or resources, such files or resources can be composed and combined algebraically.  Combinations of such files and resources can describe schools of thought applicable to regions at instants.  Individual scientists can be described as having been utilizing various models or combinations of models at various points in time.

Concepts within and between models can be related as can entire models, with such relationships resulting from scientific processes including investigation and argumentation.  Machine-utilizable resources including the details of such historical scientific processes will be tremendously advantageous.

The matter can be phrased as seeking a record of the repairs made to the ship of scientific knowledge, using Neurath‘s simile indicating that “we are like sailors who must rebuild their ship on the open sea, without ever being able to dismantle it in dry dock and reconstruct it from the best components.”

Argumentation theory, which can be phrased as an alternative to both absolutism and relativism, can explain the piecemeal processes over the course of the history of science.  With participants arguing about a main topic or matter, while making use of data resulting from scientific investigation, the substantiation of each claim, and otherwise communication, makes use of other concepts.  The concepts used thusly, that are not objected to by participants, can be phrased as having either been accepted, useful or convenient to the participants of argumentation, at least for the purposes of argumentation, at that instant, while the argumentation focused on addressing the main topic or matter.

Argumentation theory and scientific reasoning interrelate in other interesting ways.  For example, in the context of the hypothetico-deductive model, there is the problem of induction, and, in argumentation theory, there is the topic of the accrual of arguments.

A robust means of representing argumentation, including scientific argumentation, should include a means of indicating which models were in use by which participants, perhaps to the granularity of utterances, so as to enhance the accurate interpretation of sentences.  Many formalisms of argumentation take it for granted that the semantics of arguments are available; knowledge representation formats that include natural language can include features to enhance the correct interpretation of sentences.

Representing scientific argumentation builds upon the previous topic of argumentation and mathematics while including more linguistic premises and a dynamic set of ontologies with each perhaps composed of multiple model components.

Robust resources for contemporary and historical scientific knowledge, resulting from described processes of investigation and argumentation, can provide numerous advantages including to science education, while enhancing the development of advanced scientific instrumentation.