virus: Discoveries and Inventions

Reed Konsler (
Mon, 3 Feb 1997 13:16:04 -0500

>From: "Wade T.Smith" <>
>Date: Sat, 1 Feb 97 22:23:30 -0500
>Subject: Re: virus: Discoveries and Inventions
>>What is the difference between an invention and a discovery? I'm suspicious.
>An invention is a creation, a thing which was not before.
>A discovery is a find, or a description, of that which is.
>An invention is not discovered, nor a discovery invented, unless you're
>talking about cold fusion.... ;-)

How about the electron...was it discovered or invented? It seems to me
that your answer depends on how you define "electron". In one sense, the
particle was "discovered" in that it was found as part of reality and is a
description of "what is".

On the other hand the "electron" in continiously being re-invented as new
observations are made. There have been several Quantum/Reletivity/Chaos
posts here (and elsewhere) that I don't feel like rehashing.

Her is a list of concepts central to each science:

Astronomy and Physics The General Theory of Reletivity
Chemistry Thermodynamics, Quantum Mechanics
Biology Neo-Darwinism
Geology Plate Tectonics

I'm not being exaustive and not saying that these are in any way the "most
central" concepts...simply that the modern sciences would be quite
different without these ideas.

Are they discoveries or inventions?

How about these concepts?

Astronomy and Physics Newtonian Mechanics, Geocentrism
Chemistry Phlogiston, The 4 Elements, Bohr's atom
Biology Lamarckian evolution, Spontaneous Generation
Geology Catastrophism

Discoveries or inventions?

And what about Cold Fusion? I'll agree with you that it's probably not
true. But stranger things have been accepted as scientifc, and more
intuitive concepts refuted.

Even something as technical as the computer was (and is) designed as much
by trial/error as by rational design. Most human concepts and devices are
distinctly ad hoc in nature, much like our own brains...if our current
concepts anout neurobiology and conciousness turn out to be correct...

"We have to live today by what truth we can get today, and be ready
tomorrow to call it falsehood."
--William James


Reed Konsler