Oxford Philosophy of Physics Seminar

There is every reason philosophers of physics should be jealous of those of us fortunate enough to be at Oxford this term–just look at the seminar series in philosophy of physics Chris Timpson and Harvey Brown put together, which consists mostly of their own Oxford people! A similar series at UCSD would be somewhat shorter (even though we could claim Nancy Cartwright as our own). Of course, the Oxford seminar series does not even come close in exhausting all the people working in the philosophy and foundations of physics at Oxford…

Anyway, here is their announcement:

The Oxford Philosophy of Physics seminar will, as usual, meet this term on Thursdays at 4.30pm in the Lecture Room at 10 Merton St. The schedule is as follows (speakers’ affiliation is Oxford unless otherwise stated):

1st Week (29 April) Alastair Wilson “Metaphysics in light of Everettian Quantum Mechanics”

2nd Week (6 May) Andreas Doering “Some basics of the topos approach to the formulation of physical theories”

3rd Week (13 May) Keith Hannabuss “Some recent developments in Quantum Electrodynamics”

Abstract: This talk will review the history of electrodynamics and the problem of divergences, together with some of the more recent ideas on how those can be tamed. It will not assume any detailed knowledge of QED.

4th Week (20 May) Harvey Brown “Boltzmann’s H-theorem and its discontents”

Abstract: A comparison is made of the traditional Loschmidt (reversibility) and Zermelo (recurrence) objections to Boltzmann’s H-theorem, and its simplified variant in the Ehrenfests’ 1912 wind-tree model. The little-cited 1896 (measure-theoretic) objection of Zermelo (similar to an 1889 argument due to Poincaré) is also analysed. Significant differences between the objections are highlighted, and several old and modern misconceptions concerning both them and the H-theorem are clarified. Particular emphasis is given to the radical nature of Poincaré’s and Zermelo’s attack, and the importance of the shift in Boltzmann’s thinking in response to the objections taken together.

5th Week (27 May) Nancy Cartwright (LSE) “Who’s afraid of external validity?”

6th Week (3 June) Darrell Rowbottom “Confirmation and the intersubjective interpretation of probability”

7th Week (10 June) David Wallace “The logic of the Past Hypothesis”

Abstract: I attempt to get as clear as possible on the chain of reasoning by which irreversible macrodynamics is derivable from time-reversible microdynamics, and in particular, to clarify just what kinds of assumptions about the initial state of the Universe, and about the nature of the microdynamics, are needed in those derivations. I conclude that while a “Past Hypothesis” about the early Universe does seem necessary to carry out such derivations, that Hypothesis is not correctly understood as a constraint on the early Universe’s entropy.

8th Week (17 June) Adam Caulton (Cambridge) “Interpreting physical theories with symmetries”


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