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A thought experiment is an experiment that takes place in the mind of a scientist. Unlike with a real-life experiment where change is actually seen and perhaps measured, thought experiments are done just to show a special way of thinking. Anyone can do a thought experiment. All you need is your mind because all the steps take place in your mind.
The usual goal of a thought experiment is to explore the consequences of the principle in question. Like so: if this were true, what would follow from it?
- Witt-Hansen (1976). Although Experiment is a German word, it is derived from Latin. The synonym Versuch has purely Germanic roots.
- Sorensen R.A. 1992. Thought Experiments. Oxford University Press.
- Horowitz T. & Massey G.J. (eds) 1991. Thought experiments in science and philosophy. Rowman & Littlefield.