R.I.G. Hughes presents a series of eight philosophical essays on the theoretical practices of physics. The first two essays examine these practices as they appear in physicists' treatises (e.g. Newton's Principia and Opticks ) and journal articles (by Einstein, Bohm and Pines, Aharonov and Bohm). By treating these publications as texts, Hughes casts the philosopher of science in the role of critic. This premise guides the following 6 essays which deal with various concerns of philosophy of physics such as laws, (...) disunities, models and representation, computer simulation, explanation, and the discourse of physics. (shrink)
: Quite rightly, philosophers of physics examine the theories of physics, theories like Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Field Theory, the Special and General Theories of Relativity, and Statistical Mechanics. Far fewer, however, examine how these theories are put to use; that is to say, little attention is paid to the practices of theoretical physicists. In the early 1950s David Bohm and David Pines published a sequence of four papers, collectively entitled, 'A Collective Description of Electron Interaction.' This essay uses that quartet (...) as a case study in theoretical practice. In Part One of the essay, each of the Bohm-Pines papers is summarized, and within each summary an overview is given, framing a more detailed account. In Part Two theoretical practice is broken into six elements: (a) the use of models, (b) the use of theory, (c) modes of description and narrative, (d) the use of approximations, (e) experiment and theory, (f) the varied steps employed in a deduction. The last element is the largest, drawing as it does from the earlier ones. Part Three enlarges on the concept of 'theoretical practice,' and briefly outlines the subsequent theoretical advances which rendered the practices of Bohm and Pines obsolete, if still respected. (shrink)
A general account of modeling in physics is proposed. Modeling is shown to involve three components: denotation, demonstration, and interpretation. Elements of the physical world are denoted by elements of the model; the model possesses an internal dynamic that allows us to demonstrate theoretical conclusions; these in turn need to be interpreted if we are to make predictions. The DDI account can be readily extended in ways that correspond to different aspects of scientific practice.
Probability kinematics is the theory of how subjective probabilities change with time, in response to certain constraints (accepted by the subject). Rules are classified by the imposed constraints for which the rules prescribe a procedure for updating one's opinion. The first is simple conditionalization (constraint: give probability 1 to proposition A), and the second Jeffrey conditionalization (constraint: give probability x i , 0 i ). It is demonstrated by a symmetry argument that these rules are the unique admissible rules for (...) those constraints, and moreover, that any probability kinematic rule must be equivalent to a (simple or Jeffrey) conditionalization preceded by a determination of the values x i to be given to the members of such a partition. Next two rival rules which can go beyond such conditionalization are described. INFOMIN (minimize relative information) and MTP (maximize transition probability). Their properties are investigated and compared. (shrink)
The pair (A, Δ ), where A is a physical quantity (an observable) and Δ a subset of the reals, may be called an 'experimental question'. The set Q of experimental questions is, in classical mechanics, a Boolean algebra, and in quantum mechanics an orthomodular lattice (and also a transitive partial Boolean algebra). The question is raised: can we specify a priori what algebraic structure Q must have in any theory whatsoever? Several proposals suggesting that Q must be a lattice (...) are discussed, and rejected in favor of the weak claim that Q must be a Boolean atlas. (shrink)
One problem with assessing quantum logic is that there are considerable differences between its practitioners. In particular they offer different versions of the set of sentences which the logic governs. On some accounts the sentences involved describe events, on others they are ascriptions of properties. In this paper a framework is offered within which to discuss different quantum logical interpretations of quantum theory, and then the works of Jauch, Putnam, van Fraassen and Kochen are located within it.