Philosophers of science have written at great length about the geometric structure of physical space. But they have devoted their attention primarily to the question of the epistemic status of our attributions of geometric structure. They have debated whether our attributions are a priori truths, empirical discoveries, or, in a special sense, matters of stipulation or convention. lt is the goal of this paper to explore a quite different issue the role played by assumptions of spatial geometry within physical theory, (...) specifically within Newtonian gravitational theory. (shrink)
Wayne Myrvold (2003) has captured an important feature of unified theories, and he has done so in Bayesian terms. What is not clear is whether the virtue of such unification is most clearly understood in terms of Bayesian confirmation. I argue that the virtue of such unification is better understood in terms of other truth-related virtues such as predictive accuracy.
It is often claimed that the geodesic principle can be recovered as a theorem in general relativity. Indeed, it is claimed that it is a consequence of Einstein's equation (or of the conservation principle that is, itself, a consequence of that equation). These claims are certainly correct, but it may be worth drawing attention to one small qualification. Though the geodesic principle can be recovered as theorem in general relativity, it is not a consequence of Einstein's equation (or the conservation (...) principle) alone. Other assumptions are needed to drive the theorems in question. One needs to put more in if one is to get the geodesic principle out. My goal in this short note is to make this claim precise (i.e., that other assumptions are needed). (shrink)
Carnap’s goal in the paper is to make precise a sense in which, if relativity theory is correct, statements about the topological structure of physical space can be reduced to statements about temporal or causal order. In this note, I reconstruct Carnap’s account, indicate a number of technical problems, suggest how they might be fixed and, finally, contrast Carnap’s work here with that done earlier by the British mathematician A. A. Robb.
Harvey Brown believes it is crucially important that the "geodesic principle" in general relativity is an immediate consequence of Einstein's equation and, for this reason, has a different status within the theory than other basic principles regarding, for example, the behavior of light rays and clocks, and the speed with which energy can propagate. He takes the geodesic principle to be an essential element of general relativity itself, while the latter are better seen as contingent facts about the particular matter (...) fields we happen to encounter. The situation seems much less clear and clean to me. There certainly is a sense in which the geodesic principle can be recovered as a theorem in general relativity. But one needs more than Einstein's equation to drive the theorems in question. Other assumptions are needed. One needs to put more in if one is to get the geodesic principle out. My goal in this note is to make this claim precise, i.e., that other assumptions are needed. (shrink)
In my contribution to the Symposium ("On the Vagaries of Determinism and Indeterminism"), I will identify several issues that arise in trying to decide whether Newtonian particle mechanics qualifies as a deterministic theory. I'll also give a mini-tutorial on the geometry and dynamical properties of Norton's dome surface. The goal is to better understand how his example works, and better appreciate just how wonderfully strange it is.
This survey article is divided into two parts. In the first (section 2), I give a brief account of the structure of classical relativity theory. In the second (section 3), I discuss three special topics: (i) the status of the relative simultaneity relation in the context of Minkowski spacetime; (ii) the ``geometrized" version of Newtonian gravitation theory (also known as Newton-Cartan theory); and (iii) the possibility of recovering the global geometric structure of spacetime from its ``causal structure".
David Albert claims that classical electromagnetic theory is not time reversal invariant. He acknowledges that all physics books say that it is, but claims they are ``simply wrong" because they rely on an incorrect account of how the time reversal operator acts on magnetic fields. On that account, electric fields are left intact by the operator, but magnetic fields are inverted. Albert sees no reason for the asymmetric treatment, and insists that neither field should be inverted. I argue, to the (...) contrary, that the inversion of magnetic fields makes good sense and is, in fact, forced by elementary geometric considerations. I also suggest a way of thinking about the time reversal invariance of classical electromagnetic theory -- one that makes use of the invariant (four-dimensional) formulation of the theory -- that makes no reference to magnetic fields at all. It is my hope that it will be of interest in its own right, Albert aside. It has the advantage that it allows for arbitrary curvature in the background spacetime structure, and is therefore suitable for the framework of general relativity. (The only assumption one needs is temporal orientability.). (shrink)
Within the framework of general relativity, in some cases at least, it is a delicate and interesting question just what it means to say that an extended body is or is not "rotating". It is so for two reasons. First, one can easily think of different criteria of rotation. Though they agree if the background spacetime structure is sufficiently simple, they do not do so in general. Second, none of the criteria fully answers to our classical intuitions. Each one exhibits (...) some feature or other that violates those intuitions in a significant and interesting way. The principal goal of the paper is to make the second claim precise in the form of a modest no-go theorem. (shrink)
We consider the following question within both Newtonian physics and relativity theory. "Given two point particles X and Y, if Y is rotating relative to X, does it follow that X is rotating relative to Y?" As it stands the question is ambiguous. We discuss one way to make it precise and show that, on that reading at least, the answers given by the two theories are radically different. The relation of relative orbital rotation turns out to be symmetric in (...) Newtonian physics, but not in relativity theory. (shrink)
John Norton has recently argued that Newtonian gravitation theory (at least as applied to cosmological contexts where one envisions the possibility of a homogeneous mass distribution throughout all of space) is inconsistent. I am not convinced. Traditional formulations of the theory may seem to break down in cases of the sort Norton considers. But the difficulties they face are only apparent. They are artifacts of the formulations themselves, and disappear if one passes to the so-called "geometrized" formulation of the theory.
An interesting difficulty arises if one tries to reconcile Reichenbach's views about "absolute" rotation in general relativity with his commitment to a "causal theory of space-time structure." This difficulty is made precise in the form of a simple theorem about relativistic space-time geometry.
The paper first tries to explain how the possibility of "time travel" arises in the Godel universe. It then goes on to discuss a technical problem conerning minimal acceleration requirements for time travel. A theorem is stated and a conjecture posed. If the latter is correct, time travel can be ruled out as a practical possibility in the Godel universe.
We propose an "explanation scheme" for why the Gibbs phase average technique in classical equilibrium statistical mechanics works. Our account emphasizes the importance of the Khinchin-Lanford dispersion theorems. We suggest that ergodicity does play a role, but not the one usually assigned to it.