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Geophysics, Realism, and IndustryHow Commercial Interests Shaped Geophysical Conceptions, 1900–1960$
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Aitor Anduaga

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198755159

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198755159.001.0001

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The Alteration of an Epistemic Paradigm by a Commercial Environment

The Alteration of an Epistemic Paradigm by a Commercial Environment

(p.153) 4 The Alteration of an Epistemic Paradigm by a Commercial Environment
Geophysics, Realism, and Industry

Aitor Anduaga

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 proposes that interactions between radio scientists and commercial companies for elucidating wave propagation in the upper atmosphere was not conspicuously different from those evolved from seismic prospecting of the Earth’s crust in America. It contends that there was a predominant epistemic paradigm in crustal seismology in the interwar period—simplicity—which was altered because of the strong influence of a particular commercial environment, i.e. the oil industry. To this end, several steps are followed. Firstly, it shows how Harold Jeffreys formulated the ‘simplicity postulate’ as the basis for his probabilistic epistemology, embraced by several seismologists who developed crustal models based on mathematical idealizations. Next, it shows that there was a renunciation of simplicity in the 1930s, emerging too quickly to have been the result of new geological evidence. Finally, it demonstrates that the paradigm shift among seismologists was a result of the significant rise in seismic exploration generated by the oil industry.

Keywords:   seismology, simplicity, Earth’s crust, oil industry, Harold Jeffreys, wave propagation, radio scientists

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