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The Aerodynamics of Insects: The Role of Models and Matter in Scientific Experimentation

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Abstract:

Historians and philosophers of science have examined the relationship between language and practice for a long time. Scholars have made important contributions to the field by attending to the social, cultural and economic contexts in which scientific paradigms are created and re‐created. However, this article posits that while it is true that scientific practice and the artifacts they generate are both socially and discursively constructed and therefore, inextricable from the human contexts that produce them, these artifacts are not only texts to be deciphered, but material things. This essay shows that the recalcitrant material dimension of my case study, a robotic moth, shapes the results of an experiment into the laws of aerodynamics in ways incommensurate with exclusively textual and/or rhetorical critiques.

Keywords: Aerodynamics; Charles Ellington; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Robotic moth; biomimesis; constructivism; material recalcitrance; mimesis; scientific practice

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02691720500145472

Publication date: October 1, 2005

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