No. 52
Author Admin / 2017-11-17
4th Week, on Goethe

4. Goethe, as a scientist, versus Newton (과학자 괴테)


Practicing the Analysis with examples provided by Einstein


In 1938, Albert Einstein wrote a book on history of physics with title of Evolution of Physics, together with Leopold Infeld who Einstein wanted to help to settle safely in US. He explained many important theories, especially about light, using time scale, in relatively easy but comprehensive ways, for normal persons. He introduced basic mechanical laws, including the Newton's law, and extended this to particle and wave theories, and relativity theories, finally quantum theory. As we know, Einstein opposed the theory of quantum, by saying God never plays dice; of course, many quantum theory physicists criticized Einstein. Even nowadays, light theory seems not complete, instead it is still being evolved. His book is surely old, but, personally I can not see any further advances in physics and other conceptual ideas for natural science after him; that is why I recommend you to read this book and connect all the concepts and related concepts that we covered through the previous chapters.

It is quite interesting to see how Einstein uses in their book fundamental structures of thought, concept, and even idea, after Kant. It may give us much hint so that we can use the structure to develop our research developments from initiating idea to conclusion (concept and/or rule, theory), which is not imitating mannerism but are reasoning patters with creative contents and methodology. For example, Einstein said in his book, "Science is not just collection of laws, a catalogue of unrelated facts. It is a creation of the human mind, with its freely invented ideas and concepts." We already know Kant stressed importance of making concept from observation; here in the Einstein book, he defined science with concept which can be made through understanding. Einstein also said, "Physical theories try to form a picture of reality and to establish its connection with the wide world of sense impressions." Here, we may think some concepts of "a picture of reality" without guide by Kant, but, categorized concepts, introduced by Kant, are of great help. Reality is sensible object and/or substance, and sense (or sensibility) is related to our sensation toward outer world, and also  to intuition, thus, sensibility and intuition are crucial factors for science, also with Einstein. Please see Einstein's comment on science again. He talked about ideas invented freely, along with concepts. I also think this is from Kant's suggestion of idea with underlying reason (for idea) of human, which seems not related to scientific ways but actually is and we will cover in the later half of the textbook.

Once again, I do not intend to study the contents of the book, Evolution of Physics, even though it provides useful information on many theories of light with Einstein's thoughts and critics. Einstein  brought up existence of Ether during explanation of theories of light, with helps of the famous dutch scientist, even mechanical views and explanation of this is still impossible (that's why Einstein also mentioned we need some substances, like ether, to use the wave theory for light). Ether seems charming one as 'existence (as it interacts with light successfully)' but is not reality as we can not sense or measure it, according to our scientific ways. We have been making some concepts of ether even we could not succeed to sensibly observe it and could not overcome difficulty of inertial system with light. The former is related to impossibility of reality concept, and the latter gives me one interesting concept from reading this book (I would say this reading was my observation) to tell me a concept is possible even when it is not possible to intuitively observe a thing, as reality, but it is possible to make a unity (let say virtual) from our imagination to be able to make appearances which are not from object reality. We are still difficult to say the Ether, but, I feel more than happy to see many famous scientists, like Einstein, mentioned the existence of the ether. I would say "Imagine a substance that we have never sensed or measured, but if we can use this to make concept (through understanding) or theory (through mere mathematical formulation), then, that can be reality and existence, one of examples is ether, I imagine and believe".

I am not sure which theories for light you believe; you support either Einstein or Bohr, or you may have your own theory or concept on light? One who knows and is interested in Einstein might know he spent lonely and almost so called forgotten life in his late career as physicist, especially against quantum physicists. Likewise, also in present times, scientists may have live with big applause or sometimes without any attention from colleagues and normal persons. If you are students or scientists to be grouped as the former, including myself, please remember Einstein how he felt loneliness and overcome. Let's extend our discussion in the next chapter, with examples of Goethe's works with plants.


Different Methods suggested by Goethe


Goethe was known as a scientist to highly emphasize observation based on our sensibility, not using any analysis. He seems believe we can stick to original objects solely without making any objects or substances different from the original object. The book, Metamorphosis of Plants (by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)), is an excellent example of his work to reveal his scientific ways; he always carefully observed both parts and whole of plants, but never divided, even for scientific purposes, the object into parts which were not related to the original (even though those sum may be relate, though; it did not matter to him) and from which we can not see appearances of the original object.


To my enjoyment, I would admire him to highlight his finding as one big cycle of plant, from seed to fruit, which repeatedly experiences expansion and contraction, as shown in below figure. One of his great surprising descriptions on plants is that he understood concepts that calyx is made through a contraction of many stems, reproductive part, such as stamen, is made through a contraction of flower. When we observe stamen inside a flower, stamen looks very similar to adjacent flower, mostly with identical color and even form. I want to ask you to get some understandings from my pointing; Goethe did not think all the parts of a plant were not isolated thus different, instead, they just change in shape/form and function, from seed to fruit.



There is another interesting thing on plant. Plant is different in reproductive ways from animal. Plants use fruit and resulted seed, and seed is made through a great contraction from fruit. As we already know, plants have similar and different reproduction ways from animals; anther (we think and also name as male), and stigma and ovary (as female). Actually, anther (or pollen from it) contains highly concentrated nectar to be transported, through style, to ovary; anther does provide both genetic information and cultivating/feeding nectar. Goethe said the Nature gives power to node of plant to make eyes which can grow sprout, as in potato (I did not know for sure, but, is there seed also for potato? We know we have 'seed potato', but, what about seed of potato?); plant eye is another way to reproduce, aside from seed. This is another evidence that plant does not use male and female inter-sexual type of reproduction.


Based on this fact (this should be checked!), we may have questions regarding evolution of plants to survive by adapting themselves to harsh environments as plants do not have chances to have different genetic information through inter-sexual reproduction, but only through slow modification, if any, for relatively long time. This also gives a lesson; plants, in instinct, are not familiar with abrupt and not-succeeding-in-time modification of genetic information. Thus, if given with intentional modification, plants may be eagerly to come back to the original, instead of adapting to a new condition with even seemingly beneficial capacities, even greater than animals (it is my hypothesis).


Goethe was also interested in a scientific method, called genetic method, where the terminology, genetic, is not related to the science of genes, like DNA analysis, but refers to a methodology of finding origin of genesis, by saying that there is no gap in Nature. This scientific philosophy of his can also be applied to formative process of plant leave, in two ways: descending and ascending formatives. The former and the latter refer to formative change in leaves of plant, from simpler to more complex, and from complex to simple, respectively. Goethe sketched four different leave formative kinds in his note, including stemming, spreading, articulation, and shooting. As shown in the figure, to full understand the formative processes, for both descending and ascending formatives, Goethe said we need both understanding (i.e., intuitive imagination) and reason (beyond observation; Goethe mentioned this as poetry).



Practicing problem:

  1. With Goethe's formative processes, make your explanation, based on your understanding and reason, why some plants selected descending for leave formative (i.e., from simple to complex) but some selected ascending formative (from complex to simple).


Research approach points of view, Goethe gives us another interesting topic to be discussed. Goethe disliked to use the method of analysis of which basic concept was from Isaac Newton in his calculus. Newton's analysis is based on manifold approach which starts with sub-division of an original object (i.e., scientific object) into manifold which does not have intuitive (sensible) appearances from the object, thus, should be reunited to be one unity to have scientifically meaningful subject. We have been continuously using this method (thus as students of Newton) either consciously or un-consciously. Sometimes this is very useful and effective, especially in Mathematics and Physics, however, sometimes, it is also possible that the method may lead to a absolutely different direction that we do not want to go for the original object; if an object is sub-divided into many components and the parts were combined, the sum may not be the same as the original object.


Scientists may say it depends on cases, conditions, and goals, but, we feel it very difficult not to use the analysis method with problems we face, under the circumstances of our present scientific communities in many countries. Let take one example, most of northern African countries have been suffering invasion in agricultural fields by the desert locust for last decades. Scientists have tried to solve this problem by using different scientific methods, including (i) observation of differences in behaviors of desert locust in either individual or group, under different environmental and other conditions, (ii) mathematical model works of their transition patterns, and (iii) genetic analysis. None of these methods succeeded yet to the problems, thus, pesticides were used to control the species from time to time, which seems not that much effective. The fact that locust changes in form and color, especially color of rear leg, was found from the method (i), but, it seems not completely connected to a solution. Mathematical models of transition seem controversy; some papers tell there is, but, others consider the complete model impossible, from researches performed by the method (ii). The method (iii), genetic approach, revealed that the locust in African countries were different, in species, from one that lived in areas near the Rocky mountain and disappeared long time ago. The method (i), and (ii) and (iii) can be categorized as the observation method without analysis, suggested by Goethe, and analytic method, suggested by Newton, respectively.


Suppose we are natural scientists to be trying to solve the desert locust problems in the African countries, and we have full data available obtained from the methods (i), (ii), and (iii). Provided that we have all information of behaviors of the locust, such as isolated or in group, with green or pink color, special patters of their reproduction, what would be our actions for solution? Next, Supposing that we have a complete model of the transition through the continent, of the locust, what would be next actions of us? Finally, if we succeed to analyze the full and complete genetic information of the locust, then, what would be our next actions to solve the problem.


Identity of Goethe, as a natural scientist, can be unveiled by his book, Theory of Colors (1840). He tried to set up a robust theory about colors, using not ways of optics but ways of color itself; in this aspect, he did not like the approaching way, taken and suggested by Newton, to understand color. Goethe thought color is the language of Nature, as letters are for human, thus, he studied colors in four different ways: first, physiological colors (colors sensible to eyes), second, physical colors (like Newtonian colors, including diffraction and spectrum), third, chemical colors (characteristic colors corresponding to substances), fourth, colors appearance under conditions (a color adjacent very bright object or darkness, for examples), fifth, colors relating to different pursuits (colors relating to either mathematics, philosophy, music (Goethe said color and sound have the same origin, but, exhibit different forms in the Nature).