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Isaac Newton's Scientific MethodTurning Data into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology$
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William L. Harper

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570409

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570409.001.0001

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Newton's Methodology and the Practice of Science

Newton's Methodology and the Practice of Science

(p.372) 10 Newton's Methodology and the Practice of Science
Isaac Newton's Scientific Method

William L. Harper

Oxford University Press

Part I. Distinctive features of Newton’s method: Successively more accurate approximations and increasing empirical support from measurements. Part II. The Mercury perihelion problem: A proposal to alter the inverse-square law ruled out by a more precise measurement. Einstein’s theory accounts for the extra precession and recovers the successful measurements of Newton’s theory. An alternative to general relativity that would answer a new challenge from Mercury is ruled out by a more precise measurement. Part III. Newton does not require or endorse scientific progress as progress toward Laplace’s ideal limit of a final theory. Part IV. Newton’s conception of scientific progress through successively more accurate approximations is not undermined by the classic argument against convergent realism. Part V: Agreeing measurements from diverse phenomena play a decisive role of in transforming dark energy from a dubious hypothesis into part of the accepted background framework guiding empirical research in cosmology today.

Keywords:   support from measurements, Mercury’s perihelion, alter the inverse-square law, more precise measurement, Einstein’s theory, an alternative to general relativity, scientific progress, Laplace’s ideal theory, dark energy, cosmology today

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