Mario Hubert: When Fields Are Not Degrees of Freedom

Mario Hubert.
4:30-6:30pm Wednesday Nov 28; CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave, NYC), room 5307.

Title: When Fields Are Not Degrees of Freedom (joint work with Vera Hartenstein).

Abstract: We show that in the Maxwell–Lorentz theory of classical electrodynamics most initial values for fields and particles lead to an ill-defined dynamics, as they exhibit singularities or discontinuities along light-cones. This phenomenon suggests that the Maxwell equations and the Lorentz force law ought rather to be read as a system of delay differential equations, that is, differential equations that relate a function and its derivatives at different times. This mathematical reformulation, however, leads to physical and philosophical consequences for the ontological status of the electromagnetic field. In particular, fields cannot be taken as independent degrees of freedom, which suggests that one should not add them to the ontology.

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