NBA History of Science Seminar

Gregory A. Good, "Inaccessible Earth: Geomagnetism, In Situ Measurements, Remote Sensing, and Proxy Data."

The usual problems of measurement and its meaning are complicated and magnified when the object of study is in principle and in fact inaccessible. When a phenomenon occurs in a place where our instruments cannot reach, what can the relation between the instrument, its reading, and the phenomenon be?

Grregory A. Good, Director, Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics, College Park, U.S.A.

This essay asks how researchers have addressed questions about inaccessible processes of the Earth's magnetic field on and under its surface and at the edge of space. This case takes us beyond simple contrasts of inductive and deductive methods, or field sciences versus basic sciences, to a messier, more nuanced view of inherently complex sciences.

The talk focuses on investigations of the Earth's magnetism and electricity, but its perspectives are applicable to many areas of recent science.