PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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The ‘Miracle’ of Applicability? The Curious Case of the Simple Harmonic Oscillator

The simple harmonic oscillator appears in both classical and quantum theories, comes in various guises, and many physicists take it to be the most important physical system to solve. The thesis of this paper is that a careful analysis of the interplay of physics and mathematics in the treatment of this system serves as a surprisingly good illustration of what Eugene Wigner called the ‘miracle’ of applicability. While no claim is made that this is, generally, an unapproachable problem, it is argued that in this specific case the immediate responses run into difficulties.

Paper word-count: 4702 (total)

Author Information:

Univ. of Bergen


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