Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), an ardent young scientist, and his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), a devoted hunch-back, piece together a human body, the parts of which have been secretly collected from various sources. Frankenstein's consuming desire is to create human life through various electrical devices which he has perfected.
Elizabeth (Mae Clarke), his fiancĂ©e, is worried to distraction over his peculiar actions. She cannot understand why he secludes himself in an abandoned watch tower, which he has equipped as a laboratory, and refuses to see anyone. She and her friend, Victor Moritz (John Boles), go to Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan), his old medical professor, and ask Dr. Waldman's help in reclaiming the young scientist from his absorbing experiments. Elizabeth, intent on rescuing Frankenstein, arrives just as the eager young medico is making his final tests. They all watch Frankenstein and the hunchback as they raise the dead creature on an operating table, high into the room, toward an opening at the top of the laboratory. Then a terrific crash of thunder—the crackling of Frankenstein's electric machines—and the hand of Frankenstein's monster begins to move.
The manufactured monster a strangely hideous, startling, grotesque, gruesome, inhuman form, about seven feet (213 cm) tall with broad shoulders, enormous long arms, a placid, gaunt, elongated face, a square-shaped head with boxy forehead, hooded eyelids over deep-set sunken eyes, neck-spikes or bolts to serve as electrical connectors on his neck, jagged surgical scars, and a matted wig, wearing a dark suit, shortened coat sleeves and thick, heavy boots, causing him to walk with an awkward, stiff-legged, crude gait, is held in a dungeon in the watch tower. Through Fritz's error, a criminal brain was secured for Frankenstein's experiments which supposedly result in the monster knowing only hate, horror and murder. However, when we are first introduced to the 'Monster' it seems that it is not, in fact, a malevolent beast, but a simple, innocent (if scary looking) creation. Frankenstein welcomes it into his laboratory, and asks his creation to sit, which he does. Fritz, however, enters with a flaming torch which frightens the monster. It's fright is mistaken by Frankenstein and Dr. Waldman as an attempt to attack them, and so it is taken to the cellars where they chain up the monster, thinking that it is not fit for society, and will wreak havoc at any chance. They leave the monster locked up, when there is an unearthly, terrifying shriek from the dungeon. Frankenstein and Dr. Waldman rush in to find the monster has strangled Fritz. The monster makes a lunge at the two, but they escape. As the monster breaks through the door, Dr. Waldman injects a powerful drug into the monster's back and he sinks to the floor.
Dr. Waldman tries to destroy the unconscious creature which, however, awakens and strangles him. It escapes from the tower and wanders through the landscape. It then has a short encounter with a little farmer's daughter, Maria, who asks him to play a game with her where they would throw flowers into the lake so they appeared like little boats. As the monster takes much pleasure in the game and his playmate, it picks up the little girl and throws her into the lake in a playful sort of way and as he becomes aware of the consequences of his careless doing tries to get a hold of her, unsuccessfully. (The part of the sequence where the monster throws the girl into the pond was censored at the time of the film's original release, but has been restored in modern prints.) The creature then walks off troubled.
With preparations for the wedding completed, Frankenstein is once again himself and serenely happy with Elizabeth. They are to marry as soon as Dr. Waldman arrives. Victor rushes in, saying that the Doctor has been found strangled in his operating room. Frankenstein suspects the monster. A chilling scream convinces him that the fiend is in the house. The monster has gained access to Elizabeth's room. When the searchers arrive, they find her unconscious on the bed. The monster has escaped. He is only intent upon destroying Frankenstein.
Leading an enraged band of peasants, Frankenstein searches the surrounding country for the monster. He becomes separated from the band and is discovered by the monster, who springs at his prey and carries him off to the old mill. The peasants hear his cries and follow. Finally reaching the mill, they find the monster has climbed to the very top, dragging Frankenstein with him. In a burst of rage, he hurls the young scientist to the ground. His fall, broken by the vanes of the windmill, saves him from instant death. Some of the villagers hurry him to his home while the others remain to burn the mill and destroy the entrapped monster.
Later, back at Frankenstein Castle, Frankenstein's father, Baron Frankenstein celebrates the wedding of his recovered son with a toast to a future grandchild.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Philosophy of science

Velocity-distribution data of a gas of rubidium atoms, confirming the discovery of a new phase of matter, the Bose–Einstein condensate.
Velocity-distribution data of a gas of rubidium atoms, confirming the discovery of a new phase of matter, the Bose–Einstein condensate.

The philosophy of science seeks to understand the nature and justification of scientific knowledge. It has proven difficult to provide a definitive account of the scientific method that can decisively serve to distinguish science from non-science. Thus there are legitimate arguments about exactly where the borders are, leading to the problem of demarcation. There is nonetheless a set of core precepts that have broad consensus among published philosophers of science and within the scientific community at large.

Science is reasoned-based analysis of sensation upon our awareness. As such, the scientific method cannot deduce anything about the realm of reality that is beyond what is observable by existing or theoretical means. When a manifestation of our reality previously considered supernatural is understood in the terms of causes and consequences, it acquires a scientific explanation.

Some of the findings of science can be very counter-intuitive. Atomic theory, for example, implies that a granite boulder which appears a heavy, hard, solid, grey object is actually a combination of subatomic particles with none of these properties, moving very rapidly in space where the mass is concentrated in a very small fraction of the total volume. Many of humanity's preconceived notions about the workings of the universe have been challenged by new scientific discoveries. Quantum mechanics, particularly, examines phenomena that seem to defy our most basic postulates about causality and fundamental understanding of the world around us. Science is the branch of knowledge dealing with people and the understanding we have of our environment and how it works.

There are different schools of thought in the philosophy of scientific method. Methodological naturalism maintains that scientific investigation must adhere to empirical study and independent verification as a process for properly developing and evaluating natural explanations for observable phenomena. Methodological naturalism, therefore, rejects supernatural explanations, arguments from authority and biased observational studies. Critical rationalism instead holds that unbiased observation is not possible and a demarcation between natural and supernatural explanations is arbitrary; it instead proposes falsifiability as the landmark of empirical theories and falsification as the universal empirical method. Critical rationalism argues for the ability of science to increase the scope of testable knowledge, but at the same time against its authority, by emphasizing its inherent fallibility. It proposes that science should be content with the rational elimination of errors in its theories, not in seeking for their verification (such as claiming certain or probable proof or disproof; both the proposal and falsification of a theory are only of methodological, conjectural, and tentative character in critical rationalism). Instrumentalism rejects the concept of truth and emphasizes merely the utility of theories as instruments for explaining and predicting phenomena.

Scientific method

The scientific method seeks to explain the events of nature in a reproducible way, and to use these reproductions to make useful predictions. It is done through observation of natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulate natural events under controlled conditions. It provides an objective process to find solutions to problems in a number of scientific and technological fields.

Based on observations of a phenomenon, a scientist may generate a model. This is an attempt to describe or depict the phenomenon in terms of a logical physical or mathematical representation. As empirical evidence is gathered, a scientist can suggest a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon. This description can be used to make predictions that are testable by experiment or observation using the scientific method. When a hypothesis proves unsatisfactory, it is either modified or discarded.

While performing experiments, Scientists may have a preference for one outcome over another, and it is important that this tendency does not bias their interpretation.[7][8] A strict following of the scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of a scientist's bias on the outcome of an experiment. This can be achieved by correct experimental design, and a thorough peer review of the experimental results as well as conclusions of a study.[9][10] Once the experiment results are announced or published, an important cross-check can be the need to validate the results by an independent party.

Once a hypothesis has survived testing, it may become adopted into the framework of a scientific theory. This is a logically reasoned, self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of certain natural phenomena. A theory typically describes the behavior of much broader sets of phenomena than a hypothesis—commonly, a large number of hypotheses can be logically bound together by a single theory. These broader theories may be formulated using principles such as parsimony (e.g., "Occam's Razor"). They are then repeatedly tested by analyzing how the collected evidence (facts) compares to the theory. When a theory survives a sufficiently large number of empirical observations, it then becomes a scientific generalization that can be taken as fully verified. These assume the status of a physical law or law of nature.

Despite the existence of well-tested theories, science cannot claim absolute knowledge of nature or the behavior of the subject or of the field of study due to epistemological problems that are unavoidable and preclude the discovery or establishment of absolute truth. Unlike a mathematical proof, a scientific theory is empirical, and is always open to falsification, if new evidence is presented. Even the most basic and fundamental theories may turn out to be imperfect if new observations are inconsistent with them. Critical to this process is making every relevant aspect of research publicly available, which allows ongoing review and repeating of experiments and observations by multiple researchers operating independently of one another. Only by fulfilling these expectations can it be determined how reliable the experimental results are for potential use by others.

Isaac Newton's Newtonian law of gravitation is a famous example of an established law that was later found not to be universal—it does not hold in experiments involving motion at speeds close to the speed of light or in close proximity of strong gravitational fields. Outside these conditions, Newton's Laws remain an excellent model of motion and gravity. Since general relativity accounts for all the same phenomena that Newton's Laws do and more, general relativity is now regarded as a more comprehensive theory.

Data from the famous Michelson–Morley experiment
Data from the famous Michelson–Morley experiment

Mathematics is essential to many sciences. One important function of mathematics in science is the role it plays in the expression of scientific models. Observing and collecting measurements, as well as hypothesizing and predicting, often require extensive use of mathematics and mathematical models. Calculus may be the branch of mathematics most often used in science[citation needed], but virtually every branch of mathematics has applications in science, including "pure" areas such as number theory and topology. Mathematics is fundamental to the understanding of the natural sciences and the social sciences, many of which also rely heavily on statistics.

Statistical methods, comprised of mathematical techniques for summarizing and exploring data, allow scientists to assess the level of reliability and the range of variation in experimental results. Statistical thinking also plays a fundamental role in many areas of science.

Computational science applies computing power to simulate real-world situations, enabling a better understanding of scientific problems than formal mathematics alone can achieve. According to the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, computation is now as important as theory and experiment in advancing scientific knowledge.

Whether mathematics itself is properly classified as science has been a matter of some debate. Some thinkers see mathematicians as scientists, regarding physical experiments as inessential or mathematical proofs as equivalent to experiments. Others do not see mathematics as a science, since it does not require experimental test of its theories and hypotheses. In practice, mathematical theorems and formulas are obtained by logical derivations which presume axiomatic systems, rather than a combination of empirical observation and method of reasoning that has come to be known as scientific method. In general, mathematics is classified as formal science, while natural and social sciences are classified as empirical sciences.

History of science

Well into the eighteenth century, science and natural philosophy were not quite synonymous, but only became so later with the direct use of what would become known formally as the scientific method, which was earlier developed during the Middle Ages and early modern period in Europe and the Middle East (see History of scientific method). Prior to the 18th century, however, the preferred term for the study of nature was natural philosophy, while English speakers most typically referred to the study of the human mind as moral philosophy. By contrast, the word "science" in English was still used in the 17th century to refer to the Aristotelian concept of knowledge which was secure enough to be used as a sure prescription for exactly how to do something. In this differing sense of the two words, the philosopher John Locke in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding wrote that "natural philosophy [the study of nature] is not capable of being made a science".

By the early 1800s, natural philosophy had begun to separate from philosophy, though it often retained a very broad meaning. In many cases, science continued to stand for reliable knowledge about any topic, in the same way it is still used in the broad sense (see the introduction to this article) in modern terms such as library science, political science, and computer science. In the more narrow sense of science, as natural philosophy became linked to an expanding set of well-defined laws (beginning with Galileo's laws, Kepler's laws, and Newton's laws for motion), it became more popular to refer to natural philosophy as natural science. Over the course of the nineteenth century, moreover, there was an increased tendency to associate science with study of the natural world (that is, the non-human world). This move sometimes left the study of human thought and society (what would come to be called social science) in a linguistic limbo by the end of the century and into the next.

Through the 19th century, many English speakers were increasingly differentiating science (meaning a combination of what we now term natural and biological sciences) from all other forms of knowledge in a variety of ways. The now-familiar expression “scientific method,” which refers to the prescriptive part of how to make discoveries in natural philosophy, was almost unused during the early part of the 19th century, but became widespread after the 1870s, though there was rarely totally agreement about just what it entailed. The word "scientist," meant to refer to a systematically-working natural philosopher, (as opposed to an intuitive or empirically-minded one) was coined in 1833 by William Whewell. Discussion of scientists as a special group of people who did science, even if their attributes were up for debate, grew in the last half of the 19th century. Whatever people actually meant by these terms at first, they ultimately depicted science, in the narrow sense of the habitual use of the scientific method and the knowledge derived from it, as something deeply distinguished from all other realms of human endeavor.

By the twentieth century, the modern notion of science as a special brand of information about the world, practiced by a distinct group and pursued through a unique method, was essentially in place. It was used to give legitimacy to a variety of fields through such titles as "scientific" medicine, engineering, advertising, or motherhood. Over the 1900s, links between science and technology also grew increasingly strong. By the end of the century, it is arguable that technology had even begun to eclipse science as a term of public attention and praise. Scholarly studies of science have begun to refer to "technoscience" rather than science of technology separately. Meanwhile, such fields as biotechnology and nanotechnology are capturing the headlines. One author has suggested that, in the coming century, "science" may fall out of use, to be replaced by technoscience or even by some more exotic label such as "techknowledgy."