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Unification and Support: Harmonic Law Ratios Measure the Mass of the Sun

  • William Harper
  • Bryce Hemsley Bennett
  • Sreeram Valluri
Chapter
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 236)

Abstract

Newton’s inferences to inverse square centripetal forces from Kepler’s areal and harmonic laws illustrate an ideal of scientific explanation according to which the phenomenon to be explained measures the theoretical parameter which explains it.’ This ideal suggests a corresponding type of unification which is realized when two or more phenomena yield agreeing measurements of the same theoretical parameter. Such successful unification generates empirical support for estimates of that theoretical parameter. An example is that the harmonic law ratios of the several planets all measure the mass of the sun. This example will help us explore the way in which such unification brings empirical support to the estimation of the parameter. It will clarify what we regard as the great empirical significance of the role of phenomena as generalizations specified by best fitting curves for open-ended bodies of data. When such a phenomenon yields an agreeing measurement of a theoretical parameter the estimate of that parameter can be backed up by the whole body of data which the phenomenon fits. The open-endedness makes new data relevant; if the phenomenon continues to fit new data they will augment the empirical support that could be appealed to in backing up the estimate of the theoretical parameter.

Keywords

Astronomical Unit Centripetal Force Keplerian Orbit Empirical Success Theoretical Parameter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Harper
    • 1
  • Bryce Hemsley Bennett
    • 1
  • Sreeram Valluri
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Western OntarioCanada

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