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Specific Topic ISSHPSE 2019




History of Physics, Theory and Nature of Science Teaching. Science & People without Frontiers

2019, 3-6 June, LILLIAD LEARNING CENTER INNOVATION, Lille University, France

The Rationale

      Historical epistemology of science is one of the possible approaches to understanding the history and foundations of physics combining historical/epistemological aspects (i.e., primary sources, historical hypothesis, shared knowledge, epistemological interpretations) and using logical and mathematical inquiring. One might ask: what are physics and mathematical objects in a theory? For example in the 19th century, one can see scientific theories (particularly, mathematical and physical quantities along the experiments, modeling, properties and structures) which work in a unique discipline: physics mathematics (or mathematics physics). It is not a mathematical physics as mathematical application of physics or vice–versa, but rather it is a new way to work with science. New methodological approach to solve physical (in origin) problems where the quantities may be physical and mathematical at the same time (first novelty), and measurements are not a priority or a prerogative (second novelty) to make a coherent physical science. In addition, it is a structured discipline among mathematical quantities and physical structures (including logic and language) in order to “[...] reducing [experimental electric and magnetic] phenomena into scientific form [...]” (Maxwell 1865, p. 459). By focusing on mathematics, physics and its relationship, an interdisciplinary approach among history, philosophy, epistemology, logic and foundations of physical and mathematical sciences might be adopted. In this talk, some historical-philosophical case-studies on relationship physics-mathematics are presented and educationally discussed, i.e.: lack of relationship physics-logics, space and time in mechanics, mechanics and thermodynamics, ad absurdum proofs, non-Euclidean geometries and the space in physics, planetary model and quantum mechanics, infinite-infinitesimal and measures in laboratory, heat-temperature-friction, and reversibility phenomena, concept of set and field, continuum-discrete models in mechanics and theory of elasticity of the XIX cent., hypothesis ad hoc in the theory, local-global interpretation and differential equations-integral, point-range and physical phenomena, mechanics, kinetic model of gases and thermodynamics.

       It is a widespread argument in the relevant literature that an adequate understanding of the Nature of Science (NOS) is a central component of scientific literacy. It is therefore well established the cultural, educational, personal and scientific benefits of infusing the history and philosophy of science into science programmes and curriculum, i.e., of teaching about the NOS while teaching the content of science; such as physics or biology.

          Accordingly, in the last 25 years or so, much attention has been focused on developing reliable and efficient tests to asses NOS views held by scientists, science/ physics teachers, for instance, and students, to measure NOS learning, as well as developing knowledge and pedagogical expertise in teaching NOS. In order to do so, the literature explicitly or implicitly advocates basic tenets (criteria) of NOS for science/physics teaching.

          It has usually been included among these basic tenets for a more satisfactory understanding of the NOS criteria such as that science is a dynamic, on-going activity, rather than a static accumulation of information, that there is no “one” single scientific method, but as many methods as there are practices, that science is always tentative, that the uses of inference, observation, and evidence in science are theory laden, and so on.

        Although there is not a consensus among science educators about these basic tenets, at least some of these criteria have well been incorporated into the relevant literature. We want to explore in this summer school new frontiers in the teaching of the NOS. Are there any important tenets that has not yet been well covered (or not covered at all) by the literature and should be included in the teaching of the NOS?

         Steven Weinberg, American theoretical physicist, pointed out for example in a popular physics book that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless”. Nevertheless, readers of popular science books, as well as students in formal science education, hoping somehow that scientific inquiry could address this very human search for meaning, still seek for some sort of meaning in the scientific picture of the universe – such as so often in popular science books on cosmology, quantum field theory (or particle physics), and so on.

         As science education/physics teaching does not clarify that, it is an epistemological issue, concerning the understanding of the NOS, that misleads people in searching for meaning in science, as epitomized by Wittgenstein as even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Should that important realization be included in the teaching of the NOS?

        As a not exhaustive list of possibilities, we envision to be covering in this summer school such possible new tenets as the example above and much more. How much for instance of what we have learnt from feminist epistemology and “women in science” literature has been included in the teaching of NOS (if any at all)? What about postcolonial science and technology studies?

        We invite those willing to push the envelope and contribute to new reflections on the history of physics & teaching of NOS to participate in this 3rd International Summer School for Sciences, History and Philosophy of Sciences, Technology & Science Education which aims to provide the platform to young scholars, post-docs, PhD candidates, and early-career researchers to interact with more experienced researchers to explore cutting-edge topics in the history and philosophy of science and science teaching.

      You are welcome to send your research abstract to the 3rd International Summer School for Sciences, History and Philosophy of Sciences, Technology & Science Education which will be held in Lille in 2019 under the theme “History of Physics, Theory and Nature of Science. Science & People without Frontiers”. We expect early career and junior scholars to work together with senior scholars on their work in progress as well as on a set of bibliography and primary sources selected by the senior scholars.


Raffaele Pisano, Lille University, France

Gustavo Rodrigues Rocha, Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Brazil

Gregory Good, American Institute of Physics, USA



Architecture, Art/Museum, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Medicine/Psychology, Physics, Mathematics, Instruments, History and Historical Epistemology of Sciences, Applied Science, Techniques & Technologies, Literature/Women Writing, Nature of Science, Innovative Pedagogy/Dispositives, Philosophy of Sciences, Foundations of Science, Teaching-Learning, CLIL Teaching Science, Reasoning and learning, Conceptual frameworks, Reasoning & Changes, Critical attitude, Theories & Situations, Didactic transposition, Schooling, Professionalization, Psychology & Education, Institutions,  Science & Society