I very much look forward to this Einstein conference in Napoli: https://chiararussokrauss.wixsite.com/einstein2020
It's almost exactly a year since I started this website, and just a few weeks more since I took up my post at the University of Bonn. As of this autumn, we finally have a complete group for history and philosophy of physics here:
I must say that I am thrilled about this group of talented young people who have gathered in Bonn. For the new postdoctoral fellowships we managed to win over Juliusz Doboszewski from Harvard and Krakow and Christian Röken from Regensbug and Granada, both of whom will work on black holes and the solution space of General Relativity more generally. Niels Martens will move from Aachen to Bonn to continue his postdoctoral work on "The LHC and Gravity". Jamee Elder and Patrick Dürr joined us from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Oxford, respectively, as the first Heinrich Hertz Visiting Fellows in History and Philosophy of Physics. Jamee works on the Epistemology of LIGO, Patrick on gravitational waves and gravitational energy. In the summer semester they will be joined by Josh Eisenthal from Caltech and by Tushar Menon, also from Oxford. Martin King continues on his postdoc exploring the model landscape of particle physics, and Kian Salimkhami his PhD thesis on the dynamical approach to spacetime and quantum gravity. The final new arrival is Taimara Passero from Sao Paulo, who works on geometrization in physics, and in general relativity in particular. We are all helped by Dijedona Dani and Evangelia Siopi, graduate and undergraduate research assistants, who know the structural intricacies of the University of Bonn better than all us newcomers. It is a wonderful group of people, and seeing them all assembled makes me excited for what lies ahead. I am particularly proud that we managed to attract people from some of the best philosophy of physics places in the world, to form the founding members of the Lichtenberg Group for History and Philosophy of Physics at the beginning of its second year.
For me, seeing this group assemble is the culmination of a wonderful first year at the University of Bonn. During this first year, much has happened. Together with Philip Stamp from UBC Vancouver, I conducted extensive oral history interviews with Sir Roger Penrose, exploring his life's story and with it the history of the renaissance of general relativity from the late 1950s onwards. We learned many things, including how Sir Roger found the first singularity theorem and worked with Stephen Hawking on further singularity theorems, how the now prevalent Carter-Penrose diagrammes came about, and how global and conformal methods entered general relativity. I was humbled that Sir Roger invited me to help him sort and systematise his literary estate and discuss his manuscripts with him in detail, a life's dream for someone working on the history of theories of gravity. The entire experience was eye-opening to me; I realised how much general relativity had changed, and indeed improved, since Einstein found his field equations in 1915. In May, I was able to share some of this excitement at a conference of the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard, speaking about the differences in Einstein's and Penrose's views on spacetime singularities, and how this new perspective turned Einstein's "Schwarzschild singularity" into "the event horizon", an absolute breakthrough in the understanding of black holes (a video of the talk can be found here). The conference at Harvard was particularly thrilling because it was just a few weeks after the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration had published what has been called the first photograph of a black hole; it was a great privilege to discuss these new results with so many EHT members so soon after the big discovery.
Another highlight of the year was the first Oxford-Notre Dame-Bonn Workshop on the Foundations of Spacetime Theories. It was a resounding success, and will be the first of many workshops in which members of the three philosophy of physics groups will collaborate, exchange ideas and thoughts on spacetime physics. Finally, just a few weeks ago we got word that the German Research Foundation (DFG) will fund our research unit on The Epistemology of the LHC with another 2,5 Million Euros for another three years.
It was an exciting first year in Bonn, and I did not even mention the pleasure of learning about non-classical logics or Duns Scotus from my new colleagues in the Institute of Philosophy here. Now I look forward to the second year, with this exciting new group of scholars that assembled under the ever-present starry sky in front of the golden castle (the main building of the University) next to the River Rhine.
If you are interested in joining or visiting the Lichtenberg Group, there are now quite a few opportunities: a 5-year postdoc, four years of funding for a graduate student working towards a PhD in history and philosophy of physics, and the Heinrich Hertz visiting fellowships.
Image Credit for the Header: ESA/Hubble
Image in Main text: Dijedonna Dani
Image in Main text: Dijedonna Dani