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Urbino Summer School in Philosophy of Physics

The XXth iteration of the Urbino Summer School will focus on spacetime and quantum physics (website), held on July 10-13, 2017.  The summer school will feature morning lectures given by Christian Wüthrich (University of Geneva) and Francesca Vidotto (Radboud University); and afternoon seminars given by Carlo Rovelli (CPT, Aix-Marseille Université, Université de Toulon, CNRS), F.A. Muller (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Tiziana Vistarini (University of Colorado Boulder). (h/t to Giovanni Macchia)

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Methodology and Epistemology in Cosmology Conference (UC Irvine: Feb. 10-12, 2017)

The twenty first century has, thus far, been a period of rapid progress in cosmology. And yet this very success has begun to expose the limits of current methods and forced cosmologists to explore new ways of learning about the universe and its history. At this conference, we will explore three related areas where methodological innovation has been called for, and where it has already begun. One theme will concern the epistemology of inflation. Does inflationary cosmology inexorably lead us to postulate a multiverse where anything that can happen does happen? And if so, what does it mean to test a theory that is compatible with anything we might observe? Or can we treat inflation as a more conventional theory, with unambiguous observational signatures? A second theme will concern dark matter and dark energy. We have inferred the existence of these entities by comparing observational evidence with models of general relativity. But one might just as well infer, from the behavior of the visible matter in the universe, that general relativity breaks down at cosmological (or even galactic) length scales. What are the prospects for alternatives to general relativity at cosmological scales? How might cosmology be used to test general relativity? The final theme will concern the role of simulation in our understanding of the history of the actual universe. Can simulations be used to test theories of the early universe? Do they provide an independent source of information about cosmology, or are they an intermediary between theory and observation?

See the conference webpage for further details.

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Summer School in Philosophy of Physics: Cesena / Urbino

The XIX International Summer School in Philosophy of Physics will be held in Urbino 5th– 8th September and  in Cesena 9th September 2016, and the organizers invite participants. (H/t to Giovanni Macchia.)

 The topic of the school is “MANY-WORLDS INTERPRETATIONS, Quantum mechanics, metaphysics and cosmology.”  It will feature morning lectures given by Wayne  Myrvold (Western University) and Guido Bacciagaluppi (Utrecht University); and afternoon seminars given by  Claudio Calosi (University of Neuchatel), Gennaro Auletta (University of Cassino), and Marica Branchesi (University of Urbino) and F.A. Muller (Erasmus University Rotterdam). Lectures and seminars will be held in English, with a mock trial on September 9th in Italian.

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RIP: Hilary Putnam (1926-2016)

Hilary Putnam, Cogan University Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard, died yesterday at the age of 89. Putnam made important contributions to many fields in philosophy, including philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, the history of philosophy (American pragmatism, Wittgenstein), moral philosophy, philosophy of mathematics, and, last but not least, philosophy of physics. For his bibliography, click here.

Among many accolades, Putnamn won the Lauener Prize for an Outstanding Oeuvre in Analytical Philosophy in 2012, and I was honored to meet him at the prize ceremony in Bern and the symposium in his honor. At least as recently as that, he was still very active and on top of his game, discussing recent developments concerning the interpretation of quantum mechanics with me on the occasion. It is unlikely that I will meet another philosopher with a comparable breadth in my lifetime, or a more deserving winner of a prize celebrating his lifetime achievements!
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Philosophy of Cosmology Postdoc (Rotman Institute)

The Rotman Institute invites applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Philosophy of Cosmology. The Fellowship will provide a new scholar in foundations of physics with a unique opportunity to pursue research in collaboration with physicists and philosophers.

The Fellow will be supervised by Chris Smeenk. He or she will benefit from joining an active group of postdoctoral fellows working at the Institute, as well as interactions with faculty. Within the philosophy of physics, faculty pursue topics in the foundations of quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and history and philosophy of space-time theories, as well as in connections between physical theory and general questions in methodology, epistemology, and metaphysics.

The Postdoctoral Fellowship has a duration of two years. The initial appointment is for one year, with renewals annually conditional on satisfactory performance. The Fellow will have an office within the Rotman Institute. Fellows are required to involve themselves fully in the research life of the Institute by conducting research leading to peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations, and by participating in conferences, research groups, reading groups, and outreach activities. The Fellow will be asked to write a review of recent work in philosophy of cosmology in the first year of the fellowship.

The Fellowship is generously supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, and is conditional upon finalizing the grant agreement.  Smeenk is the PI on the grant, with Jim Weatherall and John Manchak (UC Irvine) as co-Investigators.  The postdoctoral fellow will be primarily based at the Rotman Institute, but there will be opportunities to work with Weatherall, Manchak, and other collaborators on the grant.

See the full advertisement for further details, and instructions for applying.  Scholars who applied to a postdoctoral fellowship at the Rotman Institute last month will automatically be considered for this position, and do not need to re-submit application materials.  Please direct any questions to Chris Smeenk.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 37,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Abner Shimony (1928-2015)

From Don Howard:

One of the world’s finest philosophers of science has passed. His many students and friends will miss him dearly.

ABNER ELIEZER SHIMONY Obituary (from the Boston Globe)

Shimony, Abner Eliezer Of New Haven Connecticut, formerly of Wellesley, Massachusetts, passed away at the Mary Wade Nursing Home on August 8. His life-time work was investigating connections between physics and philosophy. Abner was born in Columbus, Ohio on March 10th, 1928. His father, Morris Shimony, had emigrated from Palestine; his mother, Sarah Altman Shimony, from Poland. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1932, where Morris was a cantor and Hebrew-school teacher at the Anshei Sphard Synagogue. Following his wife’s death in 1935, Morris married Dora Farber, an emigrant from Russia and a member of the congregation. After graduating Summa cum Laude in mathematics and philosophy from Yale in 1948, Abner was a student of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Carnap at the University of Chicago.
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