Category Archives: Uncategorized

New video: Richard Healey: The loopy world of gauge theories

Science journalist George Musser sat down with philosopher of physics Richard Healey to discuss the meaning of gauge theories, the basis of our modern understanding of force and matter. For all their predictive power, these theories leave us in the dark about the basic ingredients of the physical world.

On our channel or at


Lam December 20th

• Wednesday 20 December 2017 at Geneva – Vincent Lam (Geneva): Perspectives from general relativity and quantum gravity on laws of nature and causation

Attention: This talk will exceptionally be in room L208 (Landolt, second floor).

Abstract: This talk aims to update and enrich the two main families of metaphysical conceptions—reductive and non-reductive ones—about laws of nature and causation with insights from fundamental spacetime and gravitational physics. One of the crucial implications of the dynamical nature of general relativistic spacetime is that the global spacetime topology can be non-trivial in a way that may be at odds with the temporal (and ‘production’) aspects of non-reductive accounts. We will discuss the status of the global topological constraints that may be imposed on the spacetime structure within the reductive and non-reductive conceptions about laws and causation. Furthermore, we will specifically discuss how the non-linear and elliptic (constrained) structure of general relativity raises difficulties in evaluating counterfactuals in the initial value formulation of the theory. We will conclude with considerations on how to generalize the standard conceptions about laws and causation to the quantum gravity context where spacetime may not be fundamental in some sense. In terms of technical difficulty, this talk mostly rates 1/5 (with a few peaks) 1

Crowther: December 13

• Wednesday 13 December 2017 at Geneva – Karen Crowther (Geneva): When do we stop digging? Necessary conditions on a fundamental theory

Abstract: In seeking an answer to the question of what it means for a theory to be fundamental, it is enlightening to ask why the current best theories of physics are not generally believed to be fundamental. This reveals a set of conditions that a theory of physics must satisfy in order to be considered fundamental (although it is a further question whether a theory’s satisfaction of these necessary conditions is sufficient for it to be considered fundamental). Physics aspires to describe ever deeper levels of reality, which may be without end. Ultimately, at any stage we may not be able to tell whether we’ve reached rock bottom, or even if there is a base level–nevertheless, I aim here to draft a checklist to help us identify when to stop digging, in the case where we may have reached a candidate for a final theory. I begin by outlining some of the different conceptions of fundamentality associated with modern physics, before explaining why neither our current best theory of matter and forces (the standard model of particle physics), nor our current best theory of spacetime (general relativity), are generally considered fundamental. Following this, I present the necessary conditions that physicists apparently place on a fundamental theory, and I explore what these tell us about the nature of fundamentality. In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 1/5 1

Speaker at UIC on November 15th

On Wednesday 15 November 2017 at UIC (11.15am local time), Laurent Freidel (Perimeter) will speak on The Geometry of Relative Locality.

Abstract: In this talk I will describe the fundamental tension that forbids us in my view to reconcile gravity with the quantum. I will explain how this tension forces us to profoundly revise the concept of locality  and that this can be done by letting go of the hypothesis of Absolute locality. I will formulate what relaxing this hypothesis means and will describe our attempts to flesh out the concept of  relative locality. I will also  exemplify what relative locality is into specific examples. In particular, we will show how these ideas allows us to natural interpret geometrically the T-duality symmetry of string theory. This symmetry will be seen as relativistic change of frame in a  modular space, a notion of space that replaces Minkowski for quantum geometry. I will also show how the geometry of relative locality is intimately linked with generalized geometry and the geometry of quantum mechanics via a natural structure on phase space called Born geometry. Finally, and if time permits, I will comment how relative locality can shade a bright new light on the problem of unification. This talks involves several new important concepts: relative locality, generalized geometry, modular space, Born geometry. I will try to present them in a non technical manner as much as possible. In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 4/5 4

Full details above on the speakers page.

Call for Applications: Junior Visiting Fellowship to visit Geneva

Call for Applications:
University of Geneva

The philosophy of physics group at the Department of Philosophy in Geneva (the Geneva Symmetry Group) solicits applications for short- to medium-term junior visiting fellowships for advanced PhD students and recent PhDs, to visit the group anytime between now and June 2018. The fellowships are funded by the John Templeton Foundation grant ‘Space and Time after Quantum Gravity’.

Continue reading Call for Applications: Junior Visiting Fellowship to visit Geneva

Wallace to speak at UIC

On Wednesday 18 October 2017 please join us at UIC (or at Geneva via livestream, or on our YouTube channel) to hear David Wallace (USC) speaking on “The Case for Black Hole Thermodynamics”

Abstract: I give a fairly systematic and thorough presentation of the case for regarding black holes as thermodynamic systems in the fullest sense (contra recent work by Dougherty and Callender), with particular attention to (i) the availability in classical black hole thermodynamics of a well-defined notion of adiabatic intervention; (ii) the power of the membrane paradigm to make black hole thermodynamics precise and to extend it to local-equilibrium contexts; (iii) the central role of Hawking radiation in permitting black holes to be in thermal contact with one another; (iv) the wide range of routes by which Hawking radiation can be derived and its back-reaction on the black hole calculated; (v) the interpretation of Hawking radiation close to the black hole as a gravitationally bound thermal atmosphere.

More information on all talks above.