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The Restless universe
Introduction to The restless Universe

1 The lawful Universe

» 1.1 Science and regularity 1/2

1.1 Science and regularity 2/2

1.2 Mathematics and quantification 1/2

1.2 Mathematics and quantification 2/2

2 The clockwork Universe

3 The irreversible Universe

4 The intangible Universe

5 The uncertain Universe

6 Closing items

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Other titles in the Physical World series

Describing motion

Predicting motion

Classical physics of matter

Static fields and potentials

Dynamic fields and waves

Quantum physics: an introduction

Quantum physics of matter

1 The lawful Universe

1.1 Science and regularity

Part 1 of 2 | Part 2

For a printable version of '1 The lawful Universe' click here

‘Our experience shows that only a small part of the physical Universe needs to be studied in order to elucidate its underlying themes and patterns of behaviour. At root this is what it means for there to exist laws of Nature, and it is why they are invaluable to us. They may allow an understanding of the whole Universe to be built up from the study of small selected parts of it.’
John D. Barrow (1988), The World Within the World, Oxford.

Science, it is widely agreed, originated from two main sources. One was the need to develop practical knowledge and to pass it from generation to generation. The other was a more spiritual concern with the nature and origin of the world. Common to both of these well-springs of science was an appreciation of the regularity of Nature. The way to build an arch that would not fall down today was to build it in much the same way as an arch that had not fallen down yesterday. The way to predict the waxing and waning of the Moon this month was to assume that it would follow much the same course as the waxing and waning that had been observed last month and the month before.

The observation of regularity in Nature allows predictions to be made concerning the future course of particular events. In many primitive societies these regularities were ascribed to the activities of gods or other mystical spirits. However, gradually, over a long period of time, there emerged the notion that the behaviour of the world was guided by a set of natural laws that were themselves regular, in the sense that identical situations could be expected to have identical outcomes.
...continue on to Science and regularity, part 2 of 2

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A note on powers of ten and significant figures

Some highlights of physics

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Acknowledgements

Index

S207 The Physical World
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