Schedule for Fall 2013

The schedule for the the NY/NJ Philosophy of Science Group for the Fall Semester is below, along with abstracts for each talk. The speakers will be Sean Carroll (Caltech), David Wallace (Oxford), Ward Struyve (Rutgers), and Angelo Bassi (Trieste). 
Friday, October 25 
5 Washington Place (NYU Philosophy Building)
1st Floor, Room 101
4:00-6:00 pm
“Cosmology in Very Large Universes”
Sean Carroll, Caltech
The universe is obviously a big place, but modern physics frequently envisions scenarios in which it is very large indeed: large enough that any allowed local macrostate (such as the one describing you and the room you are sitting in) is likely to exist more than once, perhaps an infinite number of times. This situation induces “self-locating uncertainty,” in which we can know the state of the universe exactly and still not know where we are in it. I will argue that the obvious way to deal with such uncertainty is also the right way: by assigning equal credence to every appearance. Sometimes this raises problems, such as the possibility that we are random fluctuations in an equilibrium background (Boltzmann Brains), and we need to adjust our cosmology to fix things. Other times it is helpful, as in the many-worlds approach to quantum mechanics, where it leads directly to the Born Rule.
Friday, November 1
5 Washington Place (NYU Philosophy Building)
1st Floor, Room 101
4:00-6:00 pm
“The Non-Problem of Gibbs vs. Boltzmann Entropy”
David Wallace, Oxford
Contemporary philosophy of statistical mechanics is often set up as a battle royale between Gibbsian and Boltzmannian conceptions of entropy, with the Gibbsian approach generally regarded as philosophically suspect. I argue that, although much is indeed conceptually wrong  with Gibbsian statistical mechanics as it is conventionally presented, the framework itself is perfectly coherent. Furthermore, if the foundational assumptions required by Boltzmann’s approach are granted, they suffice to underpin the Gibbsian approach equally well, and indeed the Boltzmannian approach can be understood as a special case of the Gibbsian approach. In particular, the question of which definition of entropy is right becomes essentially a matter of terminology, of no great conceptual significance.
Tuesday, November 12
Columbia University
Hamilton Hall, Room 408
4:10-6:00 pm
“Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking and the Higgs Mechanism: Lifting the veil of gauge”
Ward Struyve, Rutgers
This year the Nobel prize for physics went to (some of) the discoverers of the Higgs mechanism. This mechanism is a key component in the standard model of particle physics. It allows for the unification of the electromagnetic and weak interaction into the electroweak interaction. According to this unified theory, all particles are fundamentally massless. The Higgs mechanism is then responsible for giving mass to particles. According to the conventional wisdom, this happens through the spontaneous breaking of a gauge symmetry. But gauge symmetry merely reflects a redundancy in the state description, connecting different mathematical representations of the same physical state. So what exactly does it mean to break it? And what exactly are the physical consequences of breaking it? I will address those questions in the context of classical field theory.
Monday, December 2
Columbia University
Hamilton Hall, Room 703
4:10-6:00 pm
Angelo Bassi, Trieste
As usual, specific announcements will be sent as each talk approaches. If you have any questions, or would like to be added to the mailing list, please send an email to
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s