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Professor Michael Stöltzner
  Department of Philosophy
University of South Carolina

On the Emergence of Fluctuations


I investigate the (almost) simultaneous emergence of Egon von Schweidler’s concept of radioactive fluctuations (1905) and Marian von Smoluchowski’s explanation of Brownian motion (1906). In both cases fluctuations (Schwankungen) became a physical quantity in its own right instead of being an expression of measurement error. These breakthroughs required a combination of experimental research programs, a deep knowledge of statistical mechanics, and a bottom-up empiricism that were characteristic of the large thought collective centering on the Viennese experimental physicist Franz Serafin Exner. Of significance are also the experimental techniques and the exploratory method shared by the early research works in atmospheric electricity and radioactivity, the emergence of the relative frequency interpretation of probability, and to accept statistical regularities as viable laws of nature.

tirsdag, den 18 juni kl. 17.00
auditorium 8, H. C. Ørsted Institutet,
Universitetsparken 5, København

Kl. 16.30 byder Selskabet på kaffe, te og frugt i Institut for Matematiske Fags frokoststue, rum 04.4.19 på 4. sal.

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