If one opens any dictionary and you go to the entry of demon, one of the entries refers to the scientific demons. Descartes' demons, Laplace's demon, Maxwell's demon, they're not considered to be real when they're first mentioned, they're considered to be possibly real.
They're trying to find a hole in theories. What they are, in the most literal sense, are little creatures that are concocted by scientists. When they're confronted with something that they don't really understand, these creatures that we have always thought of as little entities that can bend or break the laws of nature continue to be very useful and very common ways of thinking in advancing the knowledge and understanding of the natural world.
These demons share similar characteristics to those other demons in the past, like Beelzebub and Lucifer. They can break the laws of nature, they're not necessarily evil, but they create power imbalances. They can be helpful or they can be mischievous to science.
Read the video transcript: bigthink.com/videos/scientific-demons
About Jimena Canales: JimenaCanales is an expert in 19th and 20th century history of the physical sciences, working for a better understanding of science and technology in relation to the arts and humanities.She received an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in the History of Science and a BSc in Engineering Physics from the Tecnológico de Monterrey. Her first book, A Tenth of a Second: A History explored the relation between science and history as one of the central intellectual problems of modern times. Her widely-acclaimed second book, The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson and the Debate That Changed The Understanding of Time has been translated in Chinese, Greek, Spanish and excerpted in other languages. Her third book Bedeviled: A Shadow History of Demons in Science, covering four-centuries of scientific discovery, is now available.
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