According to D. Bohm’s interpretation of quantum mechanics, a particle always has a well-defined spatial trajectory. A change in boundary conditions can nonlocally change that trajectory. In this note we point out a striking instance of this phenomenon that is easy to understand qualitatively.
In 1866 J.C. Maxwell thought he had discovered a Maxwellian demon—though not under that description, of course . He thought that the temperature of a gas under gravity would vary inversely with the height of the column. From this he saw that it would then be possible to obtain energy for work from a cooling gas, a clear violation of Thompson’s statement of the second law of thermodynamics. This upsetting conclusion made him worry that “there remains as far as I (...) can see a collision between Dynamics and thermodynamics.” Later, he derived the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution law that made the temperature the same throughout the column. However, he continued to think about the relationship between dynamics and thermodynamics, and in 1867, he sent Tait a note with a puzzle for him to ponder. The puzzle was his famous “neat-fingered being” who could make a hot system hotter and a cold system colder without any work being done. Thompson in 1874 christened this being a “demon”; Maxwell unsuccessfully tried to rename it “valve.” However named, the demon’s point was to “show that the second law of thermodynamics has only a statistical validity.” Since that time a large physics literature has arisen that asks a question similar to that asked in theology, namely, does the devil exist? Beginning with Popper, philosophers examining the literature on Maxwell’s demon are typically surprised—even horrified [2,3,4,5,6,7]. As a philosopher speaking at a physics conference exactly 100 yrs after Popper’s birth, I want to explain why this is so. The organizers of this conference instructed me to offend everyone, believers and non-believers in demons. Thus my talk, apart from an agnostic middle section, contains a section offending those who believe they have exorcized the demon and a section offending those who summon demons. Throughout the central idea will be to clearly distinguish the various second laws and the various demons.. (shrink)
Advocates of the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics have long claimed that other interpretations needlessly invoke "new physics" to solve the measurement problem. Call the argument fashioned that gives voice to this claim the Redundancy Argument, or ’Redundancy’ for short. Originating right in Everett’s doctoral thesis, Redundancy has recently enjoyed much attention, having been advanced and developed by a number of commentators, as well as criticized by a few others. Although versions of this argument can target collapse theories of quantum (...) mechanics, it is usually conceived with no-collapse "hidden variable" interpretations in mind, e.g., modal and Bohmian interpretations. In particular, the argument is an attack against theories committed to both realism about the quantum state and realism about entities – what Bell 1987 calls "beables" – that supplement this state. Particles, fields, value states, and more have been suggested as possible ontology to supplement the quantum state. Redundancy is the argument that this supplementation is methodologically otiose, the superfluous pomp that Newton scorned. (shrink)
To their dismay, children look like their parents. They are not perfect copies, and over many generations some features evaporate; but even over fifty generations features relevant to an anthropologist persist. Children perhaps can find some comfort in the fact that we are not alone: organisms in general maintain remarkably stable structures through time. In What is Life? Erwin Schrödinger famously predicted the existence of the gene, but he also asked how life manages such stability in the face of thermodynamics’ (...) prescription that systems spontaneously move to increase their entropy. How does life escape the randomizing effects of the Second Law? Schrödinger of course recognized that there is no genuine conflict between life and thermodynamics. The Second Law applies only to closed, i.e., approximately energetically isolated, systems, yet living organisms are open systems. Although living creatures are not plugged into electrical sockets like your refrigerator, Schrödinger noted that organisms are dependent on the high quality energy of their environment. They maintain their structures at the expense of increased contributions of entropy (waste) to their environment. Life arises in the balance between the low entropy found in the environment and the entropy the organism itself throws off. Writing in the 1940’s, Schrödinger could see the general form of the answer to his question, but he lacked the resources to explain why these stable structures arose in the first place. (shrink)
Quantum mechanics, like any physical theory, comes equipped with many metaphysical assumptions and implications. The line between metaphysics and physics is often blurry, but as a rough guide, one can think of a theory’s metaphysics as those foundational assumptions made in its interpretation that are not usually directly tested in experiment. In classical mechanics some examples of possible metaphysical assumptions are the claims that forces are real, that inertial mass is primitive, and that space is substantival. The distinctive feature of (...) these claims is that they are all rather far removed from ordinary tests of the theory. Newton defended all three of the above claims at one time or other, whereas Mach attacked each one; however, both scientists agreed on enough of the formalism and its connection to experiment to predict (e.g.) the same periods for given pendulums. What they disagreed about were the ingredients necessary to use classical mechanics to explain and understand the world. (shrink)
Philosophy of science has a complicated – almost schizophrenic – relationship with metaphysics. Studying topics such as the nature of causation, laws of nature, and spacetime, it clearly engages in activities that deserve to be classified as metaphysics. Yet the academic discipline itself was born in opposition to the field. Carnap, Reichenbach, Feigl, Neurath, and Popper, for example, were united in a shared distrust of metaphysics. Their suspicion ran so deep as to motivate a search for a demarcation between science (...) and non-science, and science and speculative metaphysics in particular. Philosophy of science appears caught in what Einstein (1933) calls the "eternal antithesis between the two inseparable components of our knowledge—the empirical and the rational" (271). It wants to employ metaphysical speculation, but impressed with the methods of the subject it studies, it fears over-reaching. Philosophy of science thus tries to walk a fine line between scientifically motivated or grounded metaphysics and its more speculative cousins. (shrink)
Suppose that God or a demon informs you of the following future fact: despite recent cosmological evidence, the universe is indeed closed and it will have a ‘final’ instant of time; moreover, at that final moment, all 49 of the world’s Imperial Faberge eggs will be in your bedroom bureau’s sock drawer. You’re absolutely certain that this information is true. All of your other dealings with supernatural powers have demonstrated that they are a trustworthy lot.
No one conception of time emerges from a study of physics. As science changes—over time or through varying interpretations at a time—our conception of physical time changes. Each of these changes and resulting theories of time has been the subject of philosophical scrutiny, so there are many philosophical controversies internal to particular physical theories. For instance, the move to special relativity radically transformed our understanding of time, but it also gave rise to debates about the nature of simultaneity within the (...) theory itself. Nevertheless, there are some philosophical puzzles that appear at every stage of the development of physics. Perhaps most generally, there is the perennial question, Is there a ‘gap’ between the conception of time as found in physics and the conception of time as found in philosophy? (shrink)
Philosophy of time, as practiced throughout the last hundred years, is both language- and existence-obsessed. It is language-obsessed in the sense that the primary venue for attacking questions about the nature of time—in sharp contrast to the primary venue for questions about space—has been philosophy of language. Although other areas of philosophy have long recognized that there is a yawning gap between language and the world, the message is spreading slowly in philosophy of time. Since twentieth-century analytic philosophy as a (...) whole often drew metaphysical conclusions from arguments with linguistic premises, philosophy of time perhaps may be forgiven for this transgression. Connected to this language-saturated way of doing philosophy, however, is a hitherto unnoticed obsession, equally unhealthy; namely, an obsession with existence. Existence draws the very lines of debate in philosophy of time: “eternalists” believe past, present and future events all ‘equally’ exist, “possibilists” believe that past and present events exist, and “presentists” believe that only present events enjoy this lofty status. These differences between what events exist as of some other time are supposed to explain the main puzzles surrounding time. This fixation on existence, I submit, is a lingering symptom of the language-saturated days of philosophy of time. And just as linguistic issues such as the ineliminability of tense fail to elucidate time and temporal experience, so too do the “existence debates” fail to explain much of what is interesting about time. Philosophers should have more to say about such a fascinating topic. (shrink)
What is the difference between time and space? This question, once a central one in metaphysics, has not been treated kindly by recent history. By joining together space and time into spacetime Minkowski sapped some of the spirit out of this project. That is unfortunate, however, for even in relativistic theories there remain sharp and important metrical and topological distinctions between the timelike and spacelike directions of spacetime. Questions about what these differences are, why they exist and how they are (...) related are fascinating. Why, for instance, is time one-dimensional in virtually all physical theories? What does the “minus sign” in the relativistic metric have to do with time? Is there a connection between the two? At a time when researchers in quantum gravity regularly propose speculative theories with no time at all, a better understanding of time in physics is all the more important—even if only to see what is lost by its absence. (shrink)
An important feature of life is the temporal value asymmetry. Not to be confused with temporal discounting, the value asymmetry is the fact that we prefer future rather than past preferences be satisfied. Misfortunes are better in the past--where they are "over and done"--than in the future. Using recent work in empirical psychology and evolutionary theory, we develop a theory of the nature and causes of the temporal value asymmetry. The account we develop undercuts philosophy of time arguments such as (...) that of Prior (1959), but more importantly, also begins a serious study of an interesting but understudied feature of our valuations and emotional attitudes. While in the spirit of certain past sketches about the possible origins of the temporal value asymmetry, our theory improves on them in many significant respects and suggests many clear avenues of future study. More generally, our hope is that work on the temporal value asymmetry will eventually attain the degree of rigor and explanatory power that the discounting asymmetry presently enjoys, for like this latter asymmetry, we believe the temporal value asymmetry has relevance to many practical issues in decision-making. Our paper can thus be seen as a call for a more unified methodological treatment of the two temporal asymmetries. (shrink)
Are the generalizations of classical equilibrium thermodynamics true of self-gravitating systems? This question has not been addressed from a foundational perspective, but here I tackle it through a study of the “paradoxes” commonly said to afflict such systems. My goals are twofold: (a) to show that the “paradoxes” raise many questions rarely discussed in the philosophical foundations literature, and (b) to counter the idea that these “paradoxes” spell the end for gravitational equilibrium thermodynamics.
Does quantum mechanics clash with the equivalence principle—and does it matter? Content Type Journal Article Pages 133-145 DOI 10.1007/s13194-010-0009-z Authors Elias Okon, Philosophy Department, UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla CA, 92093, USA Craig Callender, Philosophy Department, UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla CA, 92093, USA Journal European Journal for Philosophy of Science Online ISSN 1879-4920 Print ISSN 1879-4912 Journal Volume Volume 1 Journal Issue Volume 1, Number 1.
An important obstacle to lawhood in the special sciences is the worry that such laws would require metaphysically extravagant conspiracies among fundamental particles. How, short of conspiracy, is this possible? In this paper we'll review a number of strategies that allow for the projectibility of special science generalizations without positing outlandish conspiracies: non-Humean pluralism, classical MRL theories of laws, and Albert and Loewer's theory. After arguing that none of the above fully succeed, we consider the conspiracy problem through the lens (...) of our preferred view of laws, an elaboration of the MRL view that we call the Better Best System (BBS) theory. BBS offers a picture on which, although all events supervene on a fundamental level, there is no one unique locus of projectibility; rather there are a large number of loci corresponding to the different areas (ecology, economics, solid-state chemistry, etc.) in which there are simple and strong generalizations to be made. While we expect that some amount of conspiracy-fear-inducing special science projectibility is inevitable given BBS, we'll argue that this is unobjectionable. It follows from BBS that the laws of any particular special or fundamental science amount to a proper subset of the laws. From this vantage point, the existence of projectible special science generalizations not guaranteed by the fundamental laws is not an occasion for conspiracy fantasies, but a predictable fact of life in a complex world. (shrink)
Perhaps the most significant contemporary theory of lawhood is the Best System (/MRL) view on which laws are true generalizations that best systematize knowledge. Our question in this paper will be how best to formulate a theory of this kind. We’ll argue that an acceptable MRL should (i) avoid inter-system comparisons of simplicity, strength, and balance, (ii) make lawhood epistemically accessible, and (iii) allow for laws in the special sciences. Attention to these problems will bring into focus a useful menu (...) of novel MRL theories, some of which solve problems the original MRL theory could not. Hence we conceive of the paper as moving toward a better Best System theory of laws. (shrink)
Thermodynamics is the science that describes much of the time asymmetric behavior found in the world. This entry's first task, consequently, is to show how thermodynamics treats temporally ‘directed’ behavior. It then concentrates on the following two questions. (1) What is the origin of the thermodynamic asymmetry in time? In a world possibly governed by time symmetric laws, how should we understand the time asymmetric laws of thermodynamics? (2) Does the thermodynamic time asymmetry explain the other temporal asymmetries? Does it (...) account, for instance, for the fact that we know more about the past than the future? The discussion thus divides between thermodynamics being an explanandum or explanans. In the former case the answer will be found in philosophy of physics; in the latter case it will be found in metaphysics, epistemology, and other fields, though in each case there will be blurring between the disciplines. (shrink)
The manifest image is teeming with activity. Objects are booming and buzzing by, changing their locations and properties, vivid perceptions are replaced, and we seem to be inexorably slipping into the future. Time—or at least our experience in time— seems a very turbulent sort of thing. By contrast, time in the scientist image seems very still. The fundamental laws of physics don’t differentiate between past and future, nor do they pick out a present moment that flows. Except for a minus (...) sign in the relativistic metric, there are few differences between the temporal and spatial coordinates in natural science. We seem to have, to echo another debate, an “explanatory gap” between time as we find it in experience and as we find it in science. Reconciling these two images of the world is the principal goal of philosophy of time. (shrink)
The Past Hypothesis is the claim that the Boltzmann entropy of the universe was extremely low when the universe began. Can we make sense of this claim when *classical* gravitation is included in the system? I first show that the standard rationale for not worrying about gravity is too quick. If the paper does nothing else, my hope is that it gets the problems induced by gravity the attention they deserve in the foundations of physics. I then try to make (...) plausible a very weak claim: that there is a well-defined Boltzmann entropy that *can* increase in *some* interesting self-gravitating systems. More work is needed before we can say whether this claim answers the threat to the standard explanation of entropy increase. (shrink)
Many believe that quantum mechanics makes the world hospitable to the tensed theory of time. Quantum mechanics is said to rescue the significance of the present moment, the mutability of the future and possibly even the whoosh of time’s flow. It allegedly does so in two different ways: by making a preferred foliation of spacetime into space and time scientifically respectable, and by wavefunction collapse injecting temporal ‘becoming’ into the world. The aim of this paper is to show that the (...) reasoning underlying these claims is wishful thinking. Against the first claim I develop what I call the “coordination problem” for tensers. The upshot of this problem is that if tensers escape the threat of relativity, they do so only by embracing conflict with the branch of physics they believed saved them, quantum mechanics. I then step back from the fray and examine some methodological issues, concluding that scientific methodology will always be “against” tenses as they are currently conceived. The Appendix deals with the confused tangle of issues linking wavefunction collapse to an open future. (shrink)
A persistent question about the deBroglie–Bohm interpretation of quantum mechanics concerns the understanding of Born’s rule in the theory. Where do the quantum mechanical probabilities come from? How are they to be interpreted? These are the problems of emergence and interpretation. In more than 50 years no consensus regarding the answers has been achieved. Indeed, mirroring the foundational disputes in statistical mechanics, the answers to each question are surprisingly diverse. This paper is an opinionated survey of this literature. While acknowledging (...) the pros and cons of various positions, it defends particular answers to how the probabilities emerge from Bohmian mechanics and how they ought to be interpreted. (shrink)
We propose that scientific representation is a special case of a more general notion of representation, and that the relatively well worked-out and plausible theories of the latter are directly applicable to thc scientific special case. Construing scientific representation in this way makes the so-called “problem of scientific representation” look much less interesting than it has seerned to many, and suggests that some of the (hotly contested) debates in the literature are concerned with non-issues.
From Kant’s first published work to recent articles in the physics literature, philosophers and physicists have long sought an answer to the question, why does space have three dimensions. In this paper, I will flesh out Kant’s claim with a brief detour through Gauss’ law. I then describe Büchel’s version of the common argument that stable orbits are possible only if space is three-dimensional. After examining objections by Russell and van Fraassen, I develop three original criticisms of my own. These (...) criticisms are relevant to both historical and contemporary proofs of the dimensionality of space (in particular, a recent one by Burgbacher, F. Lämmerzahl, C., and Macias). In general I argue that modern “proofs” of the dimensionality of space have gone off track. (shrink)
For the generalizations of thermodynamics to obtain, it appears that a very ‘special’ initial condition of the universe is required. Is this initial condition itself in need of explanation? I argue that it is not. In so doing, I offer a framework in which to think about ‘special’ initial conditions in all areas of science, though I concentrate on the case of thermodynamics. I urge the view that it is not always a serious mark against a theory that it must (...) posit an ‘improbable’ initial condition. Introduction Price's objection What we want explained A range of unlikely initial conditions Brute facts and explanation The best-system analysis Explaining the past state Conclusion Appendix. (shrink)
The no-miracles argument and the pessimistic induction are arguably the main considerations for and against scientific realism. Recently these arguments have been accused of embodying a familiar, seductive fallacy. In each case, we are tricked by a base rate fallacy, one much-discussed in the psychological literature. In this paper we consider this accusation and use it as an explanation for why the two most prominent `wholesale' arguments in the literature seem irresolvable. Framed probabilistically, we can see very clearly why realists (...) and anti-realists have been talking past one another. We then formulate a dilemma for advocates of either argument, answer potential objections to our criticism, discuss what remains (if anything) of these two major arguments, and then speculate about a future philosophy of science freed from these two arguments. In so doing, we connect the point about base rates to the wholesale/retail distinction; we believe it hints at an answer of how to distinguish profitable from unprofitable realism debates. In short, we offer a probabilistic analysis of the feeling of ennui afflicting contemporary philosophy of science. (shrink)
This paper discusses the mistake of understanding the laws and concepts of thermodynamics too literally in the foundations of statistical mechanics. Arguing that this error is still made in subtle ways, the article explores its occurrence in three examples: the Second Law, the concept of equilibrium and the definition of phase transitions.
This is my commentary on Jonathan Schaffer's paper "Evidence for Fundamentality?”; both the paper and comments were presented at the Pacific APA, San Francisco, March 2001. Schaffer argues against the view that there is an ultimate fundamental level to the world. Seeing that quarks and leptons may have an infinite hierarchy of constituents, he claims, “empowers and dignifies the whole of nature” (15). Like Kant he holds that there are as good reasons for believing matter infinitely divisible as composed of (...) fundamental simples. I’m afraid that Schaffer’s provocative arguments have not convinced me. In the paper, I criticize the idea that fundamentalism 'weakens' and 'denigrates' the whole of nature and try to show that an infinite hierarchy can not do the work Schaffer needs it to. I then argue that we should not in fact be agnostic between the two rival hypotheses. (shrink)
This is the table of contents and first chapter of Physics Meets Philosophy at the Planck Scale (Cambridge University Press, 2001), edited by Craig Callender and Nick Huggett. The chapter discusses the question of why there should be a theory of quantum gravity. We tackle arguments that purport to show that the gravitational field *must* be quantized. We then introduce various programs in quantum gravity and discuss areas where quantum gravity and philosophy seem to have something to say to each (...) other. (shrink)
The quantum gravity program seeks a theory that handles quantum matter fields and gravity consistently. But is such a theory really required and must it involve quantizing the gravitational field? We give reasons for a positive answer to the first question, but dispute a widespread contention that it is inconsistent for the gravitational field to be classical while matter is quantum. In particular, we show how a popular argument (Eppley and Hannah 1997) falls short of a no-go theorem, and discuss (...) possible counterexamples. Important issues in the foundations of physics are shown to bear crucially on all these considerations. (shrink)
This paper considers the possibility that nonrelativistic quantum mechanics tells us that Nature cares about time reversal. In a classical world we have a fundamentally reversible world that appears irreversible at higher levels, e.g., the thermodynamic level. But in a quantum world we see, if I am correct, a fundamentally irreversible world that appears reversible at higher levels, e.g., the level of classical mechanics. I consider two related symmetries, time reversal invariance and what I call ‘Wigner reversal invariance.’ Violation of (...) the first is interesting, for not only would it fly in the face of the usual story about temporal symmetry, but it also appears to imply (as I’ll explain) that time is ‘handed’, or as some have misleadingly said in the literature, ‘anisotropic’. Violation of the second is, as I hope to show, even more interesting. The paper also contains a discussion of two mostly neglected topics: what it means to say time is handed and what warrants such an attribution to time. (shrink)
Throughout this century many philosophers and physicists have gone for thc ‘big ki11’ regarding tenses. They have tried to show via McTaggart’s paradox and special relativity that tcnscs arc logically and physically impossible, rcspcctivcly. Ncithcr attempt succccds, though as I argue, both lcavc their mark. In thc iirst two sections of thc paper I introduce some conceptual difficulties for the tensed theory of time. The next section then discusses the standing 0f tenses in light of special relativity, cspccially rcccnt work (...) by Stcin on thc topic. I argue that, Stcin’s possibility thcorcm notwithstanding, special relativity is inconsistent with any philosophicully interesting conception of tense. Finally, I search for help for tenses in the broader context of quantum theory, Lorcntzian interpretations 0f time dilation/length contraction, and gcncral relativistic spacctimcs. I suggest that these avenues d0 not provide tenses the home for which some have hoped. (shrink)
In a classical mechanical world, the fundamental laws of nature are reversible. The laws of nature treat the past and future as mirror images of each other. Temporally asymmetric phenomena are ultimately said to arise from initial conditions. But are the laws of nature also reversible in a quantum world? This paper argues that they are not, that time in a quantum world prefers a particular 'hand' or ordering. I argue, first, that the probabilistic algorithm used in the theory picks (...) out a preferred direction of time for almost all interpretations of the theory, and second, that contrary to the received wisdom the Schr?dinger evolution is also irreversible. The status of Wigner reversal invariance is then discussed. I conclude that the quantum world is fundamentally irreversible, but manages to appear (thanks to Wigner reversal invariance) reversible at the classical level. (shrink)
In Philip K. Dick’s Counter-Clock World the direction of time flips in 1986, putting the Earth into what its inhabitants call the ‘Hogarth Phase’. Named after the scientist who predicted that ‘time’s arrow' would change direction, the Hogarth Phase is a period in which entropy decreases instead of increases. During this time the dead call from their graves to be excavated, people clean their lungs by ‘smoking’ stubs that grow into mature cigarettes, coffee separates from cream, and so on. Although (...) such reversals may be familiar from works of fiction, we are utterly unfamiliar with them in experience. The processes of nature behave in a temporally asymmetric manner. Once the cream mixes with the coffee, it stays that way, never to return to its original separated state. Neither cigarettes nor people ever fully reconstitute themselves. This kind of asymmetric behaviour is ubiquitous in thermodynamic, radiative, and quantum mechanical phenomena. But we also find our common-sense impression ofthe world painted with temporally asymmetric concepts. Time feels like it is ‘f|owing’ forward and causation appears to be an asymmetric relation. These phenomena and impressions stand in sharp contrast with the world as perceived through eyes tutored by modem science. Spacetime, rather than.. (shrink)
This paper searches for an explicit expression of the so-called problem of the direction of time. I argue that the traditional version of the problem is an artifact of a mistaken view in the foundations of statistical mechanics, and that to the degree it is a problem, it is really one general to all the special sciences. I then search the residue of the traditional problem for any remaining difficulty particular to time's arrow and find that there is a special (...) puzzle for some types of scientific realist. (shrink)
Onc of thc problems of quantnun cosmology follows from thc fact that thc Hamiltonian H of classical general relativity equals zero. Quantizing canonically in thc Schrodinger picture, thc Schrodinger equation for thc wave function *1* of thc universe is thcreforc thc so-called Whcelc:r—DeWitt..