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Paradigm -- philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated; broadly : a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind (Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn gave this word its contemporary meaning when he adopted it to refer to the set of practices that define a scientific discipline during a particular period of time. Kuhn defines a scientific paradigm as:
what is to be observed and scrutinized,
the kind of questions that are supposed to be asked and probed for answers in relation to this subject,
how these questions are to be structured,
how the results of scientific investigations should be interpreted.
Alternatively, the Oxford English Dictionary defines paradigm as "A pattern or model, an exemplar". Thus an additional component of Kuhn's definition of paradigm is:
how is an experiment to be conducted, and what equipment is available to conduct the experiment.
Paradigm shifts tend to be most dramatic in sciences that appear to be stable and mature, as in physics at the end of the 19th century. At that time, physics seemed to be a discipline filling in the last few details of a largely worked-out system. In 1900, Lord Kelvin famously stated, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Five years later, Albert Einstein published his paper on special relativity, which challenged the very simple set of rules laid down by
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