Pre-Workshop Workshop

On Wednesday May 16, the day before the Rutgers-Columbia QFT Workshop, MAPS will host a pre-workshop workshop at the NYU philosophy department, in room 202 (5 Washington Place, New York, NY). See the schedule below for more details.


J. Brian Pitts (Cambridge).

Title: Even Observables Change in Hamiltonian General Relativity.

Abstract: The Hamiltonian formulation of Einstein’s General Relativity is the one most readily suited for merger with quantum mechanics. But since the 1950s there has been a worry that change has disappeared, especially from the physically real “observables”.  The freedom to change time coordinates, already important in Special Relativity and greatly amplified in General Relativity, also seems to disappear from the Hamiltonian formulation.  These issues yielded a memorable 2002 exchange between Earman and Maudlin.

This talk, building on a reforming literature from the 1980s onward, discusses how the radical relativity of simultaneity, change, and even change in observables are to be found.  Key moves include recognizing that the Hamiltonian formulation is a special case of the more familiar and fundamental Lagrangian formulation (implying that radical conceptual novelty cannot arise) and redefining observables such that equivalent theory formulations have equivalent observables.


Jeremy Butterfield (Cambridge).

Title: On Dualities and Equivalences Between Physical Theories.

Abstract: my main aim is to make a remark about the relation between (i) dualities between theories, as `duality’ is understood in physics and (ii) equivalence of theories, as `equivalence’ is understood in logic and philosophy. The remark is that in physics, two theories can be dual, and accordingly get called `the same theory’, though we interpret them as disagreeing—so that they are certainly equivalent, as `equivalent’ is normally understood. So the remark is simple: but, I shall argue, worth stressing—since often neglected.

My argument for this is based on the account of duality by De Haro and myself: which is illustrated here with several examples, from both elementary physics and string theory. Thus I argue that in some examples, including in string theory, two dual theories disagree in their claims about the world.

I also spell out how this remark implies a limitation of proposals (both traditional and recent) to understand theoretical equivalence as either logical equivalence or a weakening of it.


Chip Sebens (UCSD).
Time: 4-6pm.

Title: How Electrons Spin.

Abstract: There are a number of reasons to think that the electron cannot truly be spinning. Given how small the electron is generally taken to be, it would have to rotate superluminally to have the right angular momentum and magnetic moment.  Also, the electron’s gyromagnetic ratio is twice the value one would expect for an ordinary classical rotating charged body.  These obstacles can be overcome by examining the flow of mass and charge in the Dirac field (interpreted as giving the classical state of the electron). Superluminal velocities are avoided because the electron’s mass and charge are spread over sufficiently large distances that neither the velocity of mass flow nor the velocity of charge flow need to exceed the speed of light.  The electron’s gyromagnetic ratio is twice the expected value because its charge rotates twice as fast as its mass.

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Elise Crull: Questioning the Evidence for Cosmic Expansion

Elise Crull (CCNY)
4-6pm, Tuesday April 10, CUNY room 5307 (365 5th Ave, New York NY).

Title: Questioning the Evidence for Cosmic Expansion.

Abstract: expansion is a key feature of the standard cosmological model, yet evidence for it is not as strong as often believed. The only direct evidence is galactic red-shifting, but reasoning from these data to expansion is not straightforward. I argue that the relationship is better understood as inference to the best explanation, and granting this, that expansion is not the obvious best explanation. This is demonstrated by investigating the fitness of the ΛCDM model as against static models under various indirect tests.

In this talk I shall focus on time dilation studies: if expansion is happening, then general relativity suggests that clocks in substantially red-shifted galaxies ought to run slow with respect to the local frame. I briefly discuss the potential threat of selection bias in Type Ia supernovae time dilation tests, and evaluate the research methods employed by those assessing the mysterious lack of time dilation in gamma-ray bursts and quasars.

If expansion is not the best explanation for the relevant data, then one can motivate certain normative claims about methodological shifts in contemporary cosmology. To wit—more thought should be dedicated to alternate explanations for red-shifting phenomena, and to the development and careful analysis of indirect tests for expansion as against alternative cosmological models.

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Adam Becker: Why the Copenhagen Interpretation Doesn’t Work and Why It’s Popular Anyhow

Adam Becker (University of California, Berkeley).
5-7pm Tuesday April 3, NYU Philosophy department, room 101 (5 Washington Place, New York, NY).


Title: Why the Copenhagen Interpretation Doesn’t Work and Why It’s Popular Anyhow.

Abstract: conventional wisdom holds that since the advent of the first full theories of quantum mechanics in the mid-1920s, the Copenhagen interpretation has been the default interpretation of quantum mechanics, and has enjoyed the support of a majority of physicists ever since. This is not the case. While it is indeed true that a majority of physicists have long professed that they subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation, the plain fact of the matter is that there is no single coherent position known as the Copenhagen interpretation, nor has there ever been one. Moreover, none of the positions that go by the name “Copenhagen interpretation” do a good job of solving the measurement problem, the central interpretive problem at the heart of quantum foundations. Nor do they evade the nonlocality that is dictated by Bell’s theorem. In this talk, I will give an overview of the history of the Copenhagen interpretation from 1926 to the present, explain its multiple inconsistencies and failures, and attempt an answer at a persistent puzzle: why does the Copenhagen interpretation remain popular among physicists despite its manifest flaws and the existence of multiple superior alternatives?

About the speaker: Adam Becker is the author of What is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics. He has a PhD in physics from the University of Michigan and he is the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Book Grant. He is currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Office for History of Science and Technology.

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Rachel Rosen: Consistency Conditions on Fundamental Physics

Rachel Rosen (Columbia University).
2-4pm, Tuesday March 20, Columbia University Knox Hall C01 (606 W 122 St).

Title: Consistency Conditions on Fundamental Physics.

Abstract: as our understanding of the universe and its basic building blocks extends to shorter and shorter distances, experiments capable of probing these scales are becoming increasingly difficult to construct. Fundamental particle physics faces a potential crisis: an absence of data at the shortest possible scales. Yet remarkably, even in the absence of experimental data, the requirement of theoretical consistency puts stringent constraints on viable models of fundamental particles and their interactions. In this talk I’ll present some of these constraints and discuss their applications for cosmology, string theory and more.

There will be dinner after the talk. If you are interested, please send an email with “Dinner” in the heading to (please note that all are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email

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International Summer School in Philosophy of Physics, Split, Croatia, 16-21 July 2018

The Chimera of Entropy

Location: Split, Croatia (

Date: 16-21 July, 2018.

Entropy is among the most important but also most perplexing concepts in physics. It is also a polymorphic concept: introduced in thermodynamics, we now find it in statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, information theory, and black hole physics, to name just the most obvious. In this summer school, we will systematically explore the various concepts of entropy as they are used in state-of-the-art physics and evaluate their philosophical interpretations.

The summer school will consist in lectures and research talks. Participants will have the opportunity to present their work in short talks. We would like to emphasize that we are happy to accept scholars at any stage of their career (from students to senior faculty) as participants.

Scientific committee:

  • Tim Maudlin (Philosophy, New York University)
  • Franjo Sokolić (Physics, University of Split)
  • Christian Wüthrich (Philosophy, University of Geneva)

Invited speakers and panelists:

  • David Z Albert (Philosophy, Columbia University)–subject to confirmation
  • Ivica Aviani (Physics, University of Split)
  • Kevin J Coffey (Philosophy, NYU Abu Dhabi)
  • Detlef Dürr (Mathematics, LMU Munich)
  • Sheldon Goldstein (Mathematics, Rutgers University)
  • Barry Loewer (Philosophy, Rutgers University)
  • Wayne Myrvold (Philosophy, Western University)
  • Aurélien Perera (Laboratory of theoretical condensed matter physics, Paris)
  • Denis Sunko (Physics, Zabgreb)
  • David Wallace (Philosophy, University of Southern California
  • Nino Zanghì (Theoretical Physics, University of Genova)

For more information, visit:

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Jeff Barrett: Typical Quantum Worlds

Jeff Barrett (University of California, Irvine).

4:45 – 6:45pm, Tuesday November 7, Location 194 Mercer, NYC, Room 205.

Title: Typical Quantum Worlds
Abstract: Hugh Everett III’s pure wave mechanics, sometimes known as the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, was proposed as a solution to the quantum measurement problem. Both physicists and philosophers of physics have repeatedly claimed to be able to deduce the standard quantum probabilities from pure wave mechanics alone. We will consider why this is impossible, then consider how Everett himself understood quantum probabilities. This will involve clearly distinguishing between typical and probable quantum worlds.

There will be dinner after the talk. If you are interested, please send an email with “Dinner” in the heading to (please note that all are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email

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Heather Demarest: “It matters how you slice it: relativity and causation”

Heather Demarest (University of Colorado, Boulder)
4:15-6:15pm, Tuesday October 3, CUNY room 5307 (365 5th Ave, New York NY).
Title: It matters how you slice it: relativity and causation
Abstract: I argue that if we take the standard formulation of special relativity seriously, causation is frame-dependent. Thus, many ordinary causal claims require a parameter to specify the relevant frame of reference. This is in contrast to the widely-accepted belief that the causal structure of the world is objectively and absolutely determined by the light cone structure. Any event that can affect another (so the thought goes) must do so via light or matter, and the spacetime structure will tell us which of those came first, absolutely. For instance, according to Carl Hoefer (2009, 694, italics in original), if we assume that all signals travel slower than or equal to the speed of light, “we may take the light-cone structure of Minkowski spacetime as equally representing the causal structure of spacetime.” I argue that causation in relativistic spacetime is not so simple. Events can be extended in space and time, and events can be related to one another by distance and duration. Yet, according to special relativity, extension in space and time (i.e., distances and durations) are not invariant—they depend upon relative motion. Therefore, when ordinary events enter into causal relations, they do so relative to frames of reference, which can yield different causes and different effects. If you want to keep your promises, or bring about one outcome rather than another, you should take note of your reference frame.
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