Intertheoretic Relations—Optics

Robert W. Batterman

in The Devil in the Details

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780195146479
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833078 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Science

 Intertheoretic Relations—Optics

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This chapter discusses limiting correspondence relations between the wave theory of light and the ray theory of light. The limit is singular and there is no reductive relation between the theories. The focus is on the particular problem of understanding certain universal features of rainbows. The fruitfulness of studying this singular limit is demonstrated. The main conclusion of this chapter is that the fundamental theory (the wave theory) turns out to be explanatorily deficient and a new (asymptotic) explanatory theory characterizes the asymptotic borderland between the two theories.

Keywords: catastrophe theory; caustics; diffraction; rainbow; ray theory; singular limits; wave theory

Chapter.  8613 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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