Cosmological Probabilities: General Relativity and Statistical Mechanics Writ Large

Dear All,
I hope your semester is going well! Just a reminder that Casey McCoy (UCSD) will give a talk next Tuesday. Please see below for more details about McCoy’s talk and some updates about the other upcoming events. (Sorry for the length.)
Title: Cosmological Probabilities: General Relativity and Statistical Mechanics Writ Large

Speaker: Casey McCoy, Department of Philosophy, UCSD
Date: Tuesday, April 5
Time: 4:10-6:00 pm

Location: Room 716, Department of Philosophy, Columbia University
Physicists and philosophers have occasionally advanced arguments concerning the probabilities of possible universes. Although it may seem dubious to treat the entire universe as a random event, an appealing approach to justifying and interpreting cosmological probabilities is to extrapolate successful applications of probability in physics, such as statistical mechanics, to the universe. I argue, however, that adapting successful strategies in statistical mechanics to cosmology runs aground on several serious problems. I examine in particular two cases: adding probabilities to general relativity and treating the universe as a statistical mechanical system.
There will be a dinner after the talk. If you are interested and haven’t RSVP’ed, please send an email with “Dinner” in the heading to as soon as possible so that I can make the reservation for the appropriate number of people (please note that all faculty and grad students are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email
Upcoming talks at Metro Area Philosophy of Science:
Apr 12. 4:30-6:30pm @ NYU Silver 621.  Laura Franklin-Hall (NYU). 
TITLE: Why are some kinds historical and others not?

ABSTRACT: This paper explores why scientists sometimes classify entities in terms of their histories, and other times based exclusively on their non-historical or ‘synchronic’ properties. After reviewing examples of these two approaches, I formulate a principle designed to both describe and explain this aspect of our scientific classificatory practice. According to this proposal, a domain is apt for historical classifications just when the probability of the independent emergence of similar entities (PIES) in that domain is very low. In addition to rationalizing this principle and showing its ability to correctly account for classification practices across the natural and social sciences, I consider whether the kinds so circumscribed will be objective or real.
Apr 26. 4:30-6:30pm @ NYU Silver 621.  Lev Vaidman (Tel Aviv). 
TITLE: In favor of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics
ABSTRACT: I will describe my understanding of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (MWI) and will argue that today it is the only reasonable candidate for  explaining Nature. First I will discuss what is a good explanation and will emphasise the high value of determinism and locality. I will argue that classical physics provides a good explanation of Nature, but unfortunately it is a wrong explanation, as it contradicts experimental observations.  Textbook quantum mechanics  is a correct theory in the sense that it fits all experimental results, but it is not a good  theory, since it is not precisely defined,  has randomness and action at a distance. For a physicist it is very difficult to believe that a final theory of Nature has such features. The MWI, by fiat, has (almost) the same experimental predictions, but is free from physics difficulties. The fundamental ontology of the MWI is the universal wave function evolving according to well accepted deterministic physical laws. The connection to the world we experience, with its illusion of randomness and apparent action at a distance, will be explained. A  more refined description of a world in the framework of the MWI which includes microscopic systems taking part in experiments will be provided. It includes, in addition to the forward evolving wave function, the second wave function evolving backward in time from measurements in the future.
It is not necessary, but might be helpful to look at relevant publications:

 Quantum Theory and Determinism  PDF
  L. Vaidman, 
Quantum Stud.: Math. Found. 1, 5-38 (2014)

 The Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics      
L. Vaidman,
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
 (Winter 2014 Edition), E. N. Zalta (ed.)

May 12. 3:00-6:30pm @ NYU location TBA.  Mini Workshop on the Foundational Issues of GRW Theories.
  • Elizabeth Miller (Yale) & Ned Hall (Harvard). Title: TBA. 
  • Angelo Bassi (Trieste). TITLE: Models of spontaneous wave function collapse: current status and future perspectives

To solve the quantum measurement problem, models of spontaneous wave function collapse (collapse models) propose to modify the Schrödinger equation by including nonlinear and stochastic terms, which describe the collapse of the wave function in space. These spontaneous collapses are “rare” for microscopic systems, hence their quantum properties are left almost unaltered. At the same time, their effect adds coherently in composite systems, to the point that macroscopic spatial superpositions of macro-objects are rapidly suppressed. Their dynamics differs from the standard quantum one. I will present an update of the most promising ways of testing collapse models in interferometric and non-interferometric experiments, showing the current lower and upper bounds on their parameters. I will discuss the possible connection between collapse and gravity. I will remark on the role of the wave function, in connection to the existence of an underlying theory, out of which these models emerge as phenomenological models. 
I’ll also post updates and info on this website; Massimo Pigliucci (CUNY) has been managing the MAPS Facebook page.
Here is another lectures series that members of this group will find interesting. It features several members from MAPS: David Chalmers, Tim Maudlin, and David Albert.
“The New York Academy of Sciences is excited to announce a new six-part lecture series, The Physics of Everything, the first of which will take place on April 5 and the last of which will be on June 29.”

Best Wishes,

Eddy Chen

Eddy Keming Chen
Doctoral Student
Department of Philosophy
Rutgers University, New Brunswick

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