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6 Historical Questions and Philosophical Implications:
a Brief Overview

The following section will first have a look at the historical questions that have been left unanswered so far, in order to analyze secondly which philosophical problems can be found in this field. While other topics from physics, especially the problems of quantum mechanics, have been the focus of interest of many philosophical analyses (e.g. [173Jump To The Next Citation Point72Jump To The Next Citation Point62Jump To The Next Citation Point]), this has so far not been the case with cosmic-ray studies, let alone astroparticle physics, though they might supply philosophers with a number of interesting questions concerning the philosophy of physics.

6.1 Historical questions

Not many historians have considered the field of astroparticle physics, until now. One reason for this lack of interest in the topic by historians of science might the fact that any historical approach to astroparticle physics will have to face some problems first. One is the missing definition of what this field’s contents are and were, a topic that has been mentioned in this article before. The blurred image of the historical and current matters of astroparticle physics is problematic, as it tempts one to analyze events from a modern point of view, that is with modern astroparticle physics in mind. But this may lead to the omission of certain developments, which may have been dead end streets from a physicist’s point of view, but might be most elucidating for historians and philosophers of science. From a modern scientific standpoint the Phlogiston theory or the idea of the existence of the luminiferous aether are simply wrong, but from a historical perspective they played a decisive role in the establishment of current science. Therefore efforts should be made to investigate the history of all the different disciplines that came to influence astroparticle physics to some extent. Thus one might be able to give a more complex picture of the history of this field and may even come closer to a generally accepted definition of it.

The state of research (see Section 2) so far is rather limited to scientific reviews and a number of biographical notes from famous physicists. The most important of these selected few books are certainly by Hillas [110], Sekido and Elliot [194Jump To The Next Citation Point]. The first is a rather complete scientific review from the experiments of Hess up to the astrophysical problems of the 1970s. It shows that in those days cosmic-ray studies was as heterogeneous as it appears to be today, uniting different aspects of cosmology and astrophysics. Sekido and Elliot [194], on the other hand, try to mingle autobiographical aspects with a scientific review and therefore come closest to a complete survey of the history of astroparticle physics. The main difficulty of such a mixed approach between the fields of history,physics and personal reminiscence has been paraphrased as a “violation of parity between physicists and historians in the study of the past, [that] resulted, of course, in weak interactions” [103]. Many others [1311923482331338370138] have contributed to the history of physics in general and/or the history of particle physics in particular; these works have pieced together various parts of the development of astroparticle physics and its related fields, thus becoming the basis for this article. Still, there has been no systematic historical work done on the subject. Any such systematic approach should take into account a number of historical questions that are still unanswered, some of which I will try to specify in the following.

6.2 Philosophical implications

Many of the philosophical problems that can be found in the field of astroparticle physics are closely linked to its history. Yet, as they are also linked to many problems that are genuinely of a philosophical nature, they will be separately listed below.


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