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Difference Between Discovery and Invention

  1. Aug 12, 2005 #1
    Hi, Heres a little discussion topic that I find interesting.

    What is the difference between discovery and invention.

    My own view is that discovery is the coming accross things that are already there and an invention is something which has been created by someone or something that utilises a discovery!!!!

    I Think alot of people get mixed up when they say that Newton Invented the laws of motion. HE DIDN'T he discovered the laws of motion.

    Does anyone agree here? or disagree?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2005 #2


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    Well, if you're a Platonist, then you believe that all the great ideas were already existant, and that the inventor just 'remembered' them. A whole lot of how one feels about the difference between discovery and invention is related to epistemology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology).
  4. Aug 12, 2005 #3


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    Bypassing a philosophical discussion, I would broadly agree with your own view.

    I suppose inventions involve manipulation (innovative or not) of observed (and not necessarily understood) phenomena in order to solve a problem, or perform a task.

    If you are actually looking for an epistemological discussion, perhaps you could ask to have this moved to the relevant forum.

    Finally, welcome, fellow Manchester-resident!
  5. Aug 14, 2005 #4

    Claude Bile

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    One must remember that formulations are man's own creation and not that of nature. It is our way of describing nature. In my view, one can invent a theory, whereas discovery more lies in the observation side of things like the discovery of planets, the discovery of wave-like effects in light, so on and so forth.

    But that's just my opinion.

  6. Aug 15, 2005 #5
    I agree with you to a certain extent, however fromulations are only a tool in the physical universe. Yes they are man made, however, the implications of a formulae are not. Formualtions are invented yet they rely on a discovery to determine. It seems like a little bit of a parradox which is room for yet more discussion,
  7. Aug 15, 2005 #6

    Claude Bile

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    Yes, but you are assuming that the theories are a correct description of nature. Most theories are only accurate to a certain extent, over a certain range of conditions. The obvious example would be Newton's laws of motion failing at speeds close to the speed of light.

    Whatever implications a formula has are inherently artificial, it is the merit of the theory that determines how well those implications match up with our observations. For example, Newton's laws of motion imply one can accelerate to an arbitrary speed, yet we know this is not the case in our universe.

  8. Aug 16, 2005 #7

  9. Aug 17, 2005 #8

    Claude Bile

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    Newton's laws are built on a single hypothesis, the conservation of momentum. If we assume momentum is always conserved, one can derive Newton's laws.

    Newton simply re-expressed conservation of momentum, ergo he invented the laws of motion. Conservation of momentum of the other hand is an observation not a theory, no one invented the conservation of momentum, we simply observe it to be so.

    Maybe that is a clearer example.

  10. Aug 21, 2005 #9
    I think that, rigorously speaking, even the most artistical and/or bizarre model of mousetrap fits in the status of discovery, not invention.

    Music and its emotional consequences, discoveries, not inventions.

    even a pray can be put as invention. Ultimately it is a discovered way to put in words sequences of meanings which express our pain, happiness or anything else.

    Perhaps, conscience may be an invention, our pulse of existence.

    Best Regards

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