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DanielLC comments on Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions - Less Wrong

72 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 August 2007 10:27PM

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Comment author: DanielLC 27 December 2009 04:16:01AM 1 point [-]

Phlogiston exists. We call it "absence of oxygen". Nobody acted like positive charge wasn't real when they found out it was the absence of electrons.

Comment author: MatthewB 27 December 2009 05:09:14AM 1 point [-]

Do you mean that a bottle full of Nitrogen would be Phogiston, in the same way that a Hyrodgen Ion⁺ is a proton(Absence of an electron)?

Why is the "Absence of Oxygen" Phlogiston in this case?

Comment author: DanielLC 27 December 2009 06:15:00AM 2 points [-]

Nitrogen would be phlogiston-saturated air, in which nothing would burn. Coal would be full of phlogiston and burn easily in any air that isn't phlogiston-saturated.

Comment author: MatthewB 27 December 2009 09:03:45AM 3 points [-]

I went and read up on Phlogiston a little bit, and this makes sense to me now. The Nitrogen (absence of Oxygen) is a good analogy for what is a very weird theory (Phlogiston - I can see why Steam-Punks are so drawn to this esoteric and wildly insane theory - and I can see why at the time it made sense to Stahl even though it was wildly wrong... The terminology tends to sound really ludicrous: Phlogisticated or Dephlogisticated... Uh, huh...)

I can now see where my analogy with the proton is off, as well.

Comment author: wedrifid 27 December 2009 08:21:01AM 0 points [-]

Do you mean that a bottle full of Nitrogen would be Phogiston, in the same way that a Hyrodgen Ion⁺ is a proton(Absence of an electron)?

Acknowledging, of course, that the nomenclature we are considering is among the most ridiculed of historical attempts of scientific explanation I don't think the analogy would call the absence of electron a proton. A proton is a specific particle that has a positive charge but not all positive charges are considered to be protons (even if protons are usually involved somewhere underneath in conventional matter).

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 27 December 2009 12:16:46PM 1 point [-]

This is a wrong reification in so many specific cases...