We present a streamlined axiom system of special relativity in first-order logic. From this axiom system we "derive" an axiom system of general relativity in two natural steps. We will also see how the axioms of special relativity transform into those of general relativity. This way we hope to make general relativity more accessible for the non-specialist.
The most recent attempt at factually establishing a "true" value for the one-way velocity of light is shown to be faulty. The proposal consists of two round-trip photons travelling first in vacuo and then through a medium of refractive index n before returning to their common point of origin. It is shown that this proposal, as well as a similar one considered by Salmon (1977), presupposes that the one-way velocities of light are equal to the round-trip value. Furthermore, experiments of (...) this type, involving regions of space with varying refractive indices, cannot "single out" any factual value for the Reichenbach-Grünbaum ε factor thus posing no threat to the conventionalist thesis. (shrink)
There is persistent heterodoxy in the physics literature concerning the proper treatment of those quantons that are unstable against spontaneous decay. Following a brief litany of this heterodoxy, I develop some of the consequences of assuming that such quantons can exist, undecayed and isolated, at definite times and that their treatment can be carried out within a standard quantum theoretic state space. This assumption requires hyperplane dependence for the unstable quanton states and leads to clarification of some recent results concerning (...) deviations from relativistic time dilation of decay lifetimes. In the course of the discussion I make some observations on the relationship of unstable quantons to quantum fields. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the interpretation of velocity eigenstates for unstable quantons, their relationship to space-like momentum eigenstates for such quantons and the explanation of Shirokov’s contracting lifetimes for such velocity eigenstates. It is an elaboration of a portion of the authors earlier study.
We analyze the possible implications of spacetime discreteness for the special and general relativity and quantum theory. It is argued that the existence of a minimum size of spacetime may explain the invariance of the speed of light in special relativity and Einstein’s equivalence principle in general relativity. Moreover, the discreteness of spacetime may also result in the collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics, which may provide a possible solution to the quantum measurement problem. These interesting results might (...) have some important implications for a complete theory of quantum gravity. (shrink)
I introduce a puzzle about contact and de re temporal predication in relativistic spacetime. In particular, I describe an apparent counterexample to the following principle, roughly stated: if B is never in a position to say ‘I was touching A, I am touching A, and I will be touching A’, then (time travel aside) A is never in a position to say ‘I was touching B, I am touching B, and I will be touching B’. In the case I present, (...) the most that A is ever in a position to say is: ‘I am now touching B, but this is the only instant at which this will ever be so’. B, on the other hand, can say: ‘I was formerly touching A, I am currently touching A, and I will in the future be touching A’. (And neither object is a time traveler.). (shrink)
I formulate a theory of persistence in the endurantist family and pose a problem for the conjunction of this theory with orthodox versions of special or general relativity. The problem centers around the question: Where are things?
Final draft (September 2013 - going to production) of the book on the notion of fundamental length I have been writing for the last couple of years, covering issues in the philosophy of math, metaphysics, and the history and the philosophy of modern physics, from classical electrodynamics to current theories of quantum gravity. To be published (2014) in Cambridge University Press.
I discuss a rarely mentioned correspondence between Einstein and Swann on the constructive approach to the special theory of relativity, in which Einstein points out that the attempts to construct a dynamical explanation of relativistic kinematical effects require postulating a fundamental length scale in the level of the dynamics. I use this correspondence to shed light on several issues under dispute in current philosophy of spacetime that were highlighted recently in Harvey Brown’s monograph Physical Relativity, namely, Einstein’s view on the (...) distinction between principle and constructive theories, and the consequences of pursuing the constructive approach in the context of spacetime theories. r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
In this three-part paper, my concern is to expound and defend a conception of science, close to Einstein's, which I call aim-oriented empiricism. I argue that aim-oriented empiricsim has the following virtues. (i) It solve the problem of induction; (ii) it provides decisive reasons for rejecting van Fraassen's brilliantly defended but intuitively implausible constructive empiricism; (iii) it solves the problem of verisimilitude, the problem of explicating what it can mean to speak of scientific progress given that science advances from one (...) false theory to another; (iv) it enables us to hold that appropriate scientific theories, even though false, can nevertheless legitimately be interpreted realistically, as providing us with genuine , even if only approximate, knowledge of unobservable physical entities; (v) it provies science with a rational, even though fallible and non-mechanical, method for the discovery of fundamental new theories in physics. In the third part of the paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years. (shrink)
In this paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years.
In a recent paper, Howard Stein makes a number of criticisms of an earlier paper of mine ('Are Probabilism and Special Relativity Incompatible?', Phil. Sci., 1985), which explored the question of whether the idea that the future is genuinely 'open' in a probabilistic universe is compatible with special relativity. I disagree with almost all of Stein's criticisms.
In recounting his discovery of special relativity, Einstein recalled a debt to the philosophical writings of Hume and Mach. I review the path Einstein took to special relativity and urge that, at a critical juncture, he was aided decisively not by any specific doctrine of space and time, but by a general account of concepts that Einstein found in Hume and Mach’s writings. That account required that concepts, used to represent the physical, must be properly grounded in experience. In so (...) far as they extended beyond that grounding, they were fictional and to be abjured (Mach) or at best tolerated (Hume). Einstein drew a different moral. These fictional concepts revealed an arbitrariness in our physical theorizing and may still be introduced through freely chosen definitions, as long as these definitions do not commit us to false presumptions. After years of failed efforts to conform electrodynamics to the principle of relativity and with his frustration mounting, Einstein applied this account to the concept of simultaneity. The resulting definition of simultaneity provided the reconceptualization that solved the problem in electrodynamics and led directly to the special theory of relativity. (shrink)
Substantivalists believe that spacetime and its parts are fundamental constituents of reality. Relationalists deny this, claiming that spacetime enjoys only a derivative existence. I begin by describing how the Galilean symmetries of Newtonian physics tell against both Newton's brand of substantivalism and the most obvious relationalist alternative. I then review the (now) obvious substantivalist response to the problem, which is to ditch substantival space for substantival spacetime. The resulting position has many affinities with what are arguably the most natural interpretations (...) of special and general relativity. I move on to consider and reject two recent antisubstantivalist lines of thought. The interim conclusion is that the best argument for relationalism is an appeal to Ockham's razor. However, for this to be successful there must be genuine relationalist theories that share the theoretical virtues of their substantivalist rivals but without the additional ontological commitment. The bulk of the paper is therefore an investigation of various concrete relationalist proposals. I distinguish three options for the relationalist in the face of the success of Galilean invariant physics and trace how these generalise to relativistic physics. One of the options (Barbour's Machian approach to dynamics) is particularly promising but, since its basic objects end up being spacetime points, this does not help the prospects of relationalism as traditionally conceived. I end with some reflections on the fate of substantivalism in the aftermath of the Hole Argument, concluding that we have as yet to be given good reasons to abandon the natural, substantivalist interpretation of current physics. (shrink)
When addressing the notion of proper time in the theory of relativity, it is usually taken for granted that the time read by an accelerated clock is given by the Minkowski proper time. However, there are authors like Harvey Brown that consider necessary an extra assumption to arrive at this result, the so-called clock hypothesis. In opposition to Brown, Richard TW Arthur takes the clock hypothesis to be already implicit in the theory. In this paper I will present a view (...) different from these authors by recovering Einstein's notion of natural clock and showing its relevance to the debate. (shrink)
According to conventional wisdom, presentism is at odds with the theory of relativity. This is supposed to be shown quite simply just by considering the relativity of simultaneity. In this paper I will show that conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact by clarifying the physical meaning of the relativity of simultaneity one can inform the philosophical debate and endorse a presentist view.