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A phenomenon (from Greek φαινόμενoν), plural phenomena or phenomenons, is any observable occurrence.[1] Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'. These are themselves sometimes understood as involving qualia.

The term came into its modern philosophical usage through Immanuel Kant, who contrasted it with noumenon (for which he used the term Ding an sich, or "thing-in-itself") or Absolute. Noumena, in contrast to phenomena, are not directly accessible to observation. Kant was heavily influenced by Leibniz in this part of his philosophy. Phenomenon and noumenon serve as interrelated technical terms in Kant's philosophy.

Cloud chamber phenomena. Scientists use phenomena to refine some hypothesis and sometimes to disprove a theory. See also Animated Version [1].

Scientific phenomena

A comparison between a candle flame on Earth (left) and in a microgravity environment, such as that found on the ISS (right). The same phenomenon is observed as appearing differently.
The combustion of a match is an observable occurrence, or event, and therefore a phenomenon.

In scientific usage, a phenomenon is any event that is observable, however commonplace it might be, even if it requires the use of instrumentation to observe, record, or compile data concerning it. For example, in physics, a phenomenon may be a feature of matter, energy, or spacetime, such as Isaac Newton's observations of the moon's orbit and of gravity, or Galileo Galilei's observations of the motion of a pendulum.[2]

Mechanical phenomena

A mechanical phenomenon is a physical phenomenon associated with the equilibrium or motion of objects.[3]

Gem phenomena

In gemology a phenomenon is an unusual optical effect that is displayed by a gem. Play-of-color, labradorescence, iridescence, adularescence, chatoyancy, asterism, aventurescence, lustre and color change are all phenomena of this type.

Popular phenomena

Further elaboration of the information in this section is appreciated. In popular usage, a phenomenon often refers to an extraordinary event.

Group and social phenomena

Group phenomena concerns the behavior of a particular group of individual entities, usually organisms and most especially people. The behavior of individuals often changes in a group setting in various ways, and a group may have its own behaviors not possible to an individual.

Social phenomena apply especially to organisms and people in that subjective states are implicit in the term. Attitudes and events particular to a group may have effects beyond the group, and either be adapted by the larger society, or seen as aberrant, being punished or shunned.

See also


  1. New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd ed.)
  2. Jeremy Bernstein, A Theory for Everything, Copernicus, An imprint of Springer-Verlag, New York, 1996, hardback, ISBN 0-387-94700-0
  3. Mechanical phenomenon., retrieved May 23, 2011
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