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The

following involve explanations of one sort or other. For each exercise, answer the following questions:

-What is being explained?
-What is the explanation?
-What, if any, recognizable sorts of explanatory claims occur in the explanation?Your choices are: causes, causal mechanisms, laws, underlying processes, or function. Some of the exercises may involve more than one sort of explanation.


Example:?The spinal column is composed of bones (vertebrae) that are separated by cartilaginous pads(discs) that act as shock absorbers for the column. Nerves run out through the spinal cord to the periphery through openings in the vertebral bones. These nerves run very close to the discs, which is why protruding discs can cause pain along those nerves. As a result of an injury, an infection,or a genetic predisposition, the disc material can change consistency and produce pressure on the nerves that run out of the spinal cord. This pressure produces pain along those nerves.


Answer:?


a. What is being explained? The manner in which a protruding disc can cause nerve pain.


b. What is the explanation? Nerves run very close to discs and when discs are injured, infected, etc., they can change consistency and protrude. This in turn causes pressure on the nerves,which results in pain.


c. What if any recognizable sorts o fexplanatory claims occur in the explanation? The passage explains a disc problem can cause nerve pain. It does so by discussing the intervening causal mechanism: the sequence of events, beginning with damage to a disc and ending in lower back nerve pain. The passage also gives a functional explanation of the vertebral discs: they serve as a kind of shock absorber.


Follow the example above to answer the following:


Case 1:?A little known fact is that the Spanish influenza of 1918 killed millions and millions of people in less than a year. Nothing else--no infection, no war, no famine--has ever killed so many in such a short period. "Why then did people pay so little attention to the epidemic in 1918 and why have they so thoroughly forgotten it since? The very nature of the disease and its epidemiological characteristics encouraged forgetfulness in the societies it affected. The disease moved so fast, arrived,flourished, and was gone before it had any but ephemeral effects on the economy and before many people had the time to fully realize just how great was the danger. The enormous disparity between the flu's morbidity and mortality rates tended to calm potential victims. Which is more frightening, rabies, which strikes very few and, without proper treatment, kills them all,or Spanish influenza, which infects the majority and kills only two or three percent? For most people, the answer is rabies,without question.


Case 2:?A softly glowing ball of light appears in the air nearby, hovers for a few seconds, passes through an object and then vanishes. It's a phenomenon known as ball lightning, which appears during thunderstorms as a luminous sphere about the size of an orange or grapefruit.Observers have reported seeing ball lighming for centuries, only to be greeted with skepticism. Now, two physicists from the Universidad?Complutense in Madrid, Spain,describe a possible explanation for ball lightning; something called an "electromagnetic knot," in which lines of an electricor magnetic field join to form a closed knot.?The researchers say the lines of force are powerful enough to trap a lump of the glowing, hot, electrically charged gas that can be created in a thunderstorm. Temperatures in the ball may reach more than 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. But the energy soon dissipates, the knot untangles, and the luminous ball disappears into thin air.


Case 3:?Snow begins as rising mist from the ocean or dew from leaves.The molecules of water rise in the warming sunshine, bounding around. They rise as vapor until they are in the high cold air and the vapor molecules begin turning to solid water.One solid water molecule joins with another and then a third one comes along. Soon they form a six-sided figure. The molecules keep a six-sided pattern as they grow into a six sided flake. Water molecules,made up of an oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, hold on to one another only in a certain waythat always forms a hexagon.


Case 4:?Have you ever heard of the Sports lllustrated Jinx? It seems that whenever a college football player is featured on the cover of Sports lllustrated, his performance on the field declines. This is nothing more than a simple example of regression to the mean. In a series of events an outstanding performance is likely to be followed by one that is more or less average

 


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