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Waves and fields in bio-ontologies


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How to reconcile difficult-to-represent phenomena such as waves and fields with upper-level ontologies such as BFO?

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Waves and fields in bio-ontologies

  1. 1. WAVES AND FIELDSIN BIO-ONTOLOGIES Colin Batchelor, RSCJanna Hastings, EBI / Geneva
  2. 2. OVERVIEW• Waves in a medium• Waves without a medium• Photons• Fields
  3. 3. WAVES IN A MEDIUMWhat is a wave?• A process?• A material portion of the waving medium?• A disposition?
  4. 4. AGAINST PORTIONHOODWaves are superposable.A trough of one wave may physically coincide with a peak of another.Throw two pebbles into any pond if you need to be convinced of this.
  5. 5. AGAINST PORTIONHOODStanding waves have portions of the medium that don’t move.
  6. 6. AGAINST DISPOSITIONHOODMedium-borne waves need a medium and this medium needs the appropriate dispositions.A Mexican Wave is borne by a discontinuous medium.You collectively have the disposition to manifest a Mexican Wave.If you are not waving Mexican right now then the wave is not identical with the disposition.
  9. 9. NO.
  10. 10. Energy is not the kind of thing that can bear angular momentum.
  11. 11. Photons have angular momentum.
  12. 12. Spectroscopy only works becausephotons have angular momentum.
  13. 13. When a sodium atom undergoes a 3p → 3s transition, it loses angular momentum.The angular momentum is carried away by an orange photon.This is how sodium streetlights work.
  14. 14. MASSLESSNESS AND MATERIALITYConsider a massless, yet charged, cricket ball.It is repelled by the surface charges on ordinary objects.It is spatially extended, so can have angular momentum.Its passage through the air is slowed by induced charges on nitrogen and oxygen molecules.It will be visible because it is coated in dust and bits of grass.It has a history.But if you hit it for six you will never see it again.
  15. 15. WHAT IS A FIELD?A field, in the sense we are interested in, is something that has different values at different points in space.We can describe many things in terms of a field.It does not follow that a field is a kind, that the gravitational field of Uranus is of a kind with the electrical field of a van der Graaff generator is of a kind with the population density in Graz is of a kind with the direction of the hairs on my head at each point of my scalp.
  16. 16. ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDSGRAVITATIONAL FIELDS describe the manifestation of a mutual disposition at a given point in space
  17. 17. ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDSGRAVITATIONAL FIELDSdescribe the curvature of space– time at a given point in space and time
  18. 18. ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDSGRAVITATIONAL FIELDS have a gauge boson we have actually detected
  19. 19. IN BRIEFWaves cannot be identified with the portions of their bearers, but wavefronts can.Waves cannot be identified with a disposition of their bearers.Photons are not energy.Fields are not a natural kind.
  20. 20. QUESTIONS?