Darwin-L Message Log 6:91 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<6:91>From jsutton@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au  Wed Feb 23 03:07:21 1994

Date: Wed, 23 Feb 1994 19:47:52 +1100 (EST)
From: John Sutton <jsutton@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au>
Subject: Re: Introductions are welcome
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Introduction ...
After long enjoying this list as a lurker I now have time & motivation (a
question) to introduce myself: my work is in history (C16-C18) of science,
especially medicine, physiology, neuroscience, and in history & philosophy of
psychology and cognitive science, and I'm fascinated by the apparent
success of the interdisciplinarity elicited here so far mainly between
evolutionary theorists & historical linguists.

Question ...
I'm wondering if help is available on the following problem, where I have
next to no knowledge of the interdisciplinary fields I need:
the notion of SUPERPOSITION is a hot topic in new connectionist models of
distributed memory, leading as it does to the threat of catastrophic
INTERFERENCE between the items superposed (in this case patterns of
activation or implicit distributed representations). It has been
transferred to cog. sci. from physics & mathematics, and in some cases in
geometry & physics seems to be defined as in fact excluding interference,
requiring that the original identity of the superposed items is retained,
so to speak, in the mix. Superposition seems to be a theoretical principle
in a bewildering variety of sciences as well as physics: geology, archaeology,
linguistics, anthropology, information theory, architecture, biology (in what

Can anyone help me with
a) the interdisciplinary history of the related notions of superposition,
interference, & distribution

b) how they do relate across contemporary sciences - are there contexts in
which superposition leaves open the possibility that the superposed items
may be obliterated or irretrievably altered, or is must the emergent
mixture always have the original ingredients still distinct/
distinguishable/ reseparable?

c) instances of these concepts in early experimental psychology, or early
interest in psychological phenomena of crosstalk, blending, or
interference among memories?

Hope this makes some sense, & isn't too far off the list interests.

John Sutton
Macquarie Uni
NSW 2109


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