DE / EN
2024/2025
History and Philosophy of Physics Research Seminar (Winter)
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Time & Place:

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Tuesdays from 14:15 to 15:45 CEST.
Almost all sessions can be attended via Zoom; the sessions that are indicated as 'hybrid' below may also be attended in person, in the main building (Am Hof 1, 53113 Bonn) in seminar room 1.070. Zoomlinks and weekly reminders are announced via [email protected]. Subscribing to this list is possible a) here, b) by sending an empty email to [email protected], or c) by contacting [email protected] 
Conveners:

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9 April 2024
hybrid (inperson speaker) 
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Karim Thébault (University of Bristol)
Decoherence and Probability Abstract
In what follows, we start by introducing two important types of probability structures: quasiprobability structures and classical probability structures. The first is a generalisation of the second. Each will be understood as uninterpreted formal structures. We will then show how the two structures can be augmented and partially interpreted to provide representations of possibility space models that implement quasiprobabilistic and classical probabilistic structure respectively. These representations correspond to classical statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. Finally, we consider a model for the emergence of a classical possibility space from a quantum possibly space model based upon the combination of decoherence and the ℏ → 0 limit. We will conclude by considering implications for debates regarding the emergence of probability in the many worlds interpretation as discussed in recent work by Saunders (2021) and Franklin (2023). Saunders, S. W. (2021). The Everett interpretation: Probability 1. In The Routledge companion to philosophy of physics, pp. 230–246. Routledge. arXiv:2103.03966 Franklin, A. (2023). Incoherent? No, just Decoherent: How quantum many worlds emerge. Philosophy of Science DOI: 10.1017/psa.2023.155. https://philsciarchive.pitt.edu/22713/ 
30 April 2024
hybrid (inperson speaker) 
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Jürgen Renn (Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology)
David Bohm‘s lectures on quantum theory and dialectical materialism Abstract
The talk presents recently discovered notes by David Bohm, related to lectures he delivered in 1957 to a group of Marxist physicists at meetings organized by the Hashomer Hatsair (Young Guard) movement at their headquarters in TelAviv. They are entitled “Philosophical Problems of Quantum Mechanics in the Light of Dialectic Materialism.” The notes comprise 114 pages printed with a manual duplicating machine. Comparing these lectures to Bohm’s book published in the same year, Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, the most striking difference is that Bohm’s worldview is here presented within an explicit philosophical framework, specifically, in the context of Hegel’s dialectics, transformed by Marx and Engels into dialectical materialism. The talk argues that the inspiration Bohm took from Hegel’s Logic helped him to highlight hitherto neglected aspects of quantum theory such as its nonlocality, to challenge the dominance of the Copenhagen interpretation, and to reopen a discussion on the foundations of quantum theory that eventually paved the way for the Second Quantum Revolution. 
7 May 2024
Inperson only 
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Frauke Stoll
Understanding Particle Physics with Deep Neural Networks and Explainable Artifical Intelligence Kartik Tiwari Painting the Heavens  Supercluster Simulations and Suspicions Abstract
Even those who adore computer simulations in their astrophysics lectures, may fear them through their philosophy education. Our computers cannot simulate the largest structures of our universe while resolving their (cosmological) smallest blocks. We can, however, approximately ‘infer’ the effects of one on the other. But, how well do these approximations align with the (socalled) spirit of science? I probe this question by dissecting the theoretical, experimental, and epistemic status of 'painting'styled approximations in cosmology. By comparing painting to other classes of scientific approximations, we identify its shortcomings on some reasonable constraints on ‘good’ approximations. Towards the end, I try to hint at the structure of possible resolutions for the issues raised through my talk. 
14 May 2024
hybrid (in person speaker), all day long 
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Workshop Foundational Challenges in Cosmological Studies of Black Holes 
28 May 2024
hybrid (in person speaker) 
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Jonathan Fay (Hertz fellow; University of Bristol)
On the ReissnerSciama hypothesis: Relative motion and the necessary existence of gravitation Abstract
Shortly after the development of general relativity, it would become clear that Einstein’s general covariance based approach does not reduce inertia to mass interactions. While Einstein subsequently treated “Mach’s principle” as a selection criterion for models of his theory, there is an alternative research program that implements this idea explicitly in its foundation. What I have called the ReissnerSciama hypothesis combines Mach’s hypothesis concerning the material origin of inertia with Einstein’s equivalence hypothesis (which suggests the unity of gravity and inertia), in such a way that gravity is identified as a necessary sideeffect of the relativity of inertia; thus hypothetically explaining the reason for the existence of the gravitational force. A corollary of this hypothesis is that the gravitational “constant” becomes a dynamical variable determined by the cosmic structure. The key papers I will draw from are Reissner (1915) and Sciama (1953). The first of these provides the best historical articulation of the hypothesis, whereas the second best illustrates the idea mathematically. In the last part of my talk, I will analyse these ideas from the philosophical perspective, discuss what it means for gravity to arise necessarily, and explore the broader implications that this sort of reasoning has for cosmology. 
4 June 2024
hybrid (inperson speaker) 
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Jan Michel (University of Düsseldorf)
Can machines make scientific discoveries? Abstract
To answer the question of whether machines can make scientific discoveries, two subquestions need to be answered: (1) What is required to make a scientific discovery? (2) Are machines capable of meeting these requirements? After some remarks on the role of scientific progress and the significance of machines in science, I show how to conceive of scientific discoveries as structured processes with the three indispensable structural features of finding, acceptance, and knowledge (cf. Michel 2022). By elaborating on each of these features, I identify several requirements for artificial discoverers. Turning then to an objection raised by Green (2022), I address two crucial issues: First, the question of whether machines can perform speech acts (cf. Green & Michel 2022), and in particular declarative speech acts. Second, the question of how different institutionalized publication cultures realize what I call acceptance mechanisms. With this in mind, I show how Green’s objection can be met once we distinguish between degrees of acceptance in certain ways. I close with a diagnosis of what to make of the idea of artificial discoverers in science. 
11 June 2024
hybrid (inperson speaker) 
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Tushar Menon (Australian Catholic University)
The inferentialist guide to quantum mechanics Abstract
This talk introduces a new approach to understanding quantum mechanics (QM) called ‘pureinferential quantum mechanics.’ The animating thought behind this approach is that, while theories can be about the world without describing it, we would be just as wrong to assume, as antirealists such as QBists do, that quantum states never describe the world, as we would be to assume, as realists such as Everettians do, that they always do. I marshal some resources from pragmatist philosophy of language to delineate the circumstances under which QM should be understood as descriptive from those under which it should not be. By constructing a novel inferentialistpragmatist interpretation of QM, I demonstrate, pace Healey, that the inferentialist about QM has the resources to ground an autonomous, descriptive interpretation of QM in its inferential profile, under the appropriate circumstances. I argue that, if we should be inferentialists about QM (and there are good reasons why we should be), then we should be pureinferentialists. 
18 June 2024
Inperson only 
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Alexander Reutlinger (Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, LMU Munich)
Articulating Invariantism. Revisiting the Counterfactual Independence Account of Scientific Objectivity Abstract
Invariantism defines scientific objectivity via the notion of invariance. I will present a version of invariantism, according to which the key notion of invariance is spelled out more precisely as a specific sort of counterfactual independence. This invariantist view – the counterfactual independence account of objectivity – needs to be articulated in a more nuanced manner. To do so, I will first explore under which conditions this version of invariantism is applicable to two different concepts of objectivity: epistemic and structural objectivity. In a second step, I will analyze what the epistemic import of (different concepts of) objectivity is, what objectivity contributes to generating scientific knowledge, if one adopts the sort of invariantism I propose.

25 June 2024
Inperson only 
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Nurida Boddenberg
Overview on Current Topics in the Philosophy of Physics (no research talsk; presentation for local students) Abstract
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2 July 2024
hybrid (inperson speaker) 
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Alex Mathie (Hertz fellow; MCMP LMU Munich)
Black Holes & Analogy Abstract
Reasoning using analogies is ubiquitous in science, where observed similarities between different domains might act as heuristics for theory development. In this talk, I explore two instances of analogical reasoning in black hole physics that seem to overreach this traditional heuristic role (analogue gravity, and the formal analogy between the laws of thermodynamics and the laws of black hole mechanics). Furthermore, I argue that not only are these two instances of analogical reasoning connected in an important way, but that the relationship between them induces a tension for those who wish to take black hole thermodynamics seriously, but who are sceptical of the epistemic legitimacy of analogue gravity. 
9 July 2024
hybrid (inperson speaker) 
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Abhay Ashtekar (Physics Department, Penn State, US and Perimeter Institute, Canada)
Einstein’s Universe and the Quantum Abstract
Our notions of space and time underwent a radical change just over a 100 years ago. Through general relativity, gravity ceased to be a force and became a manifestation of spacetime geometry. This paradigm shift opened unforeseen perspectives in our understanding of the physical universe: possibility of ripples in spacetime geometries that manifest themselves as gravitational waves; of black holes, representing geometries that trap not only matter but also light; and of the Big Bang, the primordial explosion marking the birth of the spacetime continuum itself. However, through black holes and the big bang we also learnt that Einstein’s equations predict the presence of spacetime singularities: rugged edges where the spacetime continuum tears and all of classical physics comes to an abrupt halt. These singularities are the gates to physics beyond Einstein –i.e., to unification of general relativity with quantum physics. Construction of this desired theory of quantum gravity is a truly challenging task because it requires an entirely new syntax to formulate concepts that are sufficiently adequate to describe the extreme universe. We now need the quantum analog of Riemannian geometry that serves as the syntax for general relativity. After a brief discussion of why several distinct approaches are being pursued, I will focus on loop quantum gravity, based on a specific theory of Riemannian quantum geometry. I will explain how it leads to quantum spacetimes that extend Einstein’s classical continuum beyond its singularities. While this conceptual framework is rather abstract and involves novel mathematics, it also leads to predictions that can be tested observationally. 
2023/2024
History and Philosophy of Physics Research Seminar (Summer)
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Time & Place:

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Tuesdays from 14:15 to 15:45 CEST.
Almost all sessions can be attended via Zoom; the sessions that are indicated as 'hybrid' below may also be attended in person, in the main building (Am Hof 1, 53113 Bonn) in seminar room 1.070. Zoomlinks and weekly reminders are announced via [email protected]. Subscribing to this list is possible a) here, b) by sending an empty email to [email protected], or c) by contacting [email protected] 
Conveners:

Vertical Divider

9 April 2024
hybrid (inperson speaker) 
Vertical Divider

Karim Thébault (University of Bristol)
Decoherence and Probability Abstract
In what follows, we start by introducing two important types of probability structures: quasiprobability structures and classical probability structures. The first is a generalisation of the second. Each will be understood as uninterpreted formal structures. We will then show how the two structures can be augmented and partially interpreted to provide representations of possibility space models that implement quasiprobabilistic and classical probabilistic structure respectively. These representations correspond to classical statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. Finally, we consider a model for the emergence of a classical possibility space from a quantum possibly space model based upon the combination of decoherence and the ℏ → 0 limit. We will conclude by considering implications for debates regarding the emergence of probability in the many worlds interpretation as discussed in recent work by Saunders (2021) and Franklin (2023). Saunders, S. W. (2021). The Everett interpretation: Probability 1. In The Routledge companion to philosophy of physics, pp. 230–246. Routledge. arXiv:2103.03966 Franklin, A. (2023). Incoherent? No, just Decoherent: How quantum many worlds emerge. Philosophy of Science DOI: 10.1017/psa.2023.155. https://philsciarchive.pitt.edu/22713/ 