Scientific knowledge: invented or discovered?

It’s a question that many an IB Diploma student will come across in ToK, or an A-level student in Critical Thinking. We’d hope every degree level student would have to deal with it as well because it goes to the heart of what we think we know. But it’s a great time to bring it up again in this 150th (official) anniversary year of the establishment of the modern and accepted periodic table. A framework in which Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics come together in a way that perhaps almost any scientist might describe as beautiful. Which raises our title question. Have we invented the periodic table to explain the world or simply discovered something the world hides from everyday experience? It’s a rabbit hole of a question. There are many 150th articles around the web. For those with a bit of interest on the table and how it came about look at Science News or go read the excellent Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sachs.

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