Title: When science needs conceptual change : what thermodynamics tells us about continuity of conceptualizations
Authors : Fuchs, Hans Ulrich
Conference details: 9th International Conference on Conceptual Change, Bologna, Italy, 26-29 August 2014
Issue Date: 2014
License (according to publishing contract) : Licence according to publishing contract
Type of review: Peer review (Abstract)
Language : English
Subjects : Physics education research; Cognitive science; Narrative science; Continuum physics
Subject (DDC) : 530: Physics
Abstract: Classical thermodynamics is not an example upon which to base models of learning and conceptual change. Traditionally, thermodynamics serves as an example for a model of strong change. It is argued that laypeople classify heat as substance while scientists categorize it as process. As a consequence, a shift in ontological categorization of heat must occur for productive learning to take place (Chi 2005). There is no room for continuity, however moderate, between everyday and professional conceptualizations of thermal phenomena. The issue of substance versus process is an excuse for accepting outdated models of thermal processes and the human mind. Thermodynamics has changed profoundly in the last forty years and has grown into a theory of dynamical thermal processes in spatially continuous and uniform systems (Truesdell 1980, 1984, Müller 1985, Bejan 1988, Jou et al. 1996, Fuchs 2010). Interestingly, the embodied cognitive model (conceptual integration network; Johnson 1987, Lakoff 1987, Fauconnier and Turner 2002) of the modern theory makes a revival of the caloric theory possible (Falk 1985, Mares et al. 2008, Fuchs 2010) and suggests strong continuity between lay and scientific concepts. The conceptual integration network of continuum thermodynamics (Fuchs 2013b) is one of forces of nature (and more general forces including social and psychological ones; Fuchs 2006, 2011). In everyday life, we perceive medium-scale natural phenomena as gestalts that lead to the formation of a notion of agents such as fluids, electricity, heat, substances, and motion (or justice or anger in social and psychological phenomena; Fuchs 2013a). These agents are characterized in terms of size (quantity), intensity (quality), and force or power. In the case of heat, this means that heat is not simply process or, alternatively, substance. It is a gestalt that appears, at the same time, as substance (caloric or entropy), and tension (temperature difference), and power (the available power of modern engineering thermodynamics or Carnot’s Puissance du feu; Carnot 1824). Giving learners just an either/or choice is simply untenable. In this paper, I will demonstrate how ubiquitous the notion of forces (of nature, of the soul, and of society) is, how it grew in oral mythic societies, and how it has historically developed in science (Fuchs 2014). By a conceptual linguistic reading of the equations of continuum physics (Fuchs 2013b), I can illustrate that macroscopic physics uses this most natural form of conceptualization. Indeed, thermodynamics can no longer serve as an example of the distance, or rather the chasm, between lay and scientific concepts. Rather, it shows where to look for continuity and a new approach to the question of conceptual change.
Departement: School of Engineering
Organisational Unit: Institute of Applied Mathematics and Physics (IAMP)
Publication type: Conference Paper
URI: https://digitalcollection.zhaw.ch/handle/11475/16674
Appears in Collections:Publikationen School of Engineering

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