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2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
University of Washington, Seattle


Sarah Tuttle, University of Texas/University of Washington

Project Title

Epistemological Schemata of Astro|Physics: A Reconstruction of Observers

Project Summary

The problem of the lack of diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has recently come to the fore in American discourse about the future of innovation and discovery. "Diversity‚" has become a buzzword that is often thrown around without much interrogation into the history of science and how the evolution of ideas in STEM has affected participation of diverse people in science. In this project, we consider the relationship between the problem of diversity and the history of how ideas in physics and astronomy are created. Motivated by events in the astronomical community, as well as long standing problems with the exclusion of minorities, we discuss a need for a new way to approach our roles as observers. There is a profound relationship between science, technology, and colonialism. While understanding this has traditionally been the purview of social scientists, we believe we must become actively involved in building on these ideas. Our proposal therefore asks: How do the physics/astronomy communities conceive of observers and what is a framework for reconstituting "observer" in a way that acknowledges people who have traditionally existed outside of the European Enlightenment framework? How might this change knowledge production in science?

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