David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 19 (3):245 – 260 (2005)
Interpretations of Einstein's equation differ primarily concerning whether E = mc2 entails that mass and energy are the same property of physical systems, and hence whether there is any sense in which mass is ever 'converted' into energy (or vice versa). In this paper, I examine six interpretations of Einstein's equation and argue that all but one fail to satisfy a minimal set of conditions that all interpretations of physical theories ought to satisfy. I argue that we should prefer the interpretation of Einstein's equation that holds that mass and energy are distinct properties of physical systems. This interpretation also carries along the view that while most cases of 'conversion' are not genuine examples of mass being 'converted' into energy (or vice versa), it is possible that the there are such 'conversions' in the sense that a certain amount of energy 'appears' and an equivalent of mass 'disappears'. Finally, I suggest that the interpretation I defend is the only one that does not blur the distinction between what Einstein called 'principle' and 'constructive' theories. This is philosophically significant because it emphasizes that explanations of Einstein's equation and the 'conversion' of mass and energy must be top-down explanations.
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References found in this work BETA
Roberto Torretti (1983/1996). Relativity and Geometry. Dover Publications.
Marc Lange (2001). The Most Famous Equation. Journal of Philosophy 98 (5):219-238.
Citations of this work BETA
Władysław Krajewski (2006). On the Interpretation of the Equation E = Mc 2 : Reply to Flores. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (2):215-216.
Francisco Flores (2006). On the Interpretation of the Equation E = Mc2: Response to Krajewski. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (2):217 – 218.
Diego Romero-Maltrana (2015). Symmetries as by-Products of Conserved Quantities. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52:358-368.
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Francisco Flores (1998). Einstein's 1935 Derivation of E=Mc. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 29 (2):223-243.
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