The two books discussed here make important contributions to our understanding of the role of spacetime concepts in physical theories and how that understanding has changed during the evolution of physics. Both emphasize what can be called a ‘dynamical’ account, according to which geometric structures should be understood in terms of their roles in the laws governing matter and force. I explore how the books contribute to such a project; while generally sympathetic, I offer criticisms of some historical claims concerning (...) Newton, and argue that the dynamical account does not undercut ontological issues as the books claim. *Received January 2009; revised March 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, 1423 University Hall MC 267, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
We explicate recent results that shed light on the obscure and troubling problem of renormalization in Quantum Field Theory (QFT). We review how divergent predictions arise in perturbative QFT, and how they are renormalized into finite quantities. Commentators have worried that there is no foundation for renormalization, and hence that QFTs are not logically coherent. We dispute this by describing the physics behind liquid diffusion, in which exactly analogous divergences are found and renormalized. But now we are looking at a (...) problem that is physically and formally well-defined, proving that the problems of renormalization, by themselves, cannot refute QFT. (shrink)
We explicate recent results that shed light on the obscure and troubling problem of renormalization in Quantum Field Theory. We review how divergent predictions arise in perturbative QFT, and how they are renormalized into finite quantities. Commentators have worried that there is no foundation for renormalization, and hence that QFTs are not logically coherent. We dispute this by describing the physics behind liquid diffusion, in which exactly analogous divergences are found and renormalized. But now we are looking at a problem (...) that is physically and formally well-defined, proving that the problems of renormalization, by themselves, cannot refute QFT. (shrink)
‘William L. Rowe on Philosophy of Religion’ edited by Nick Trakakis, collects 30 papers of William Rowe's important work in the philosophy of religion. I review this collection, and offer an objection of one of Rowe's arguments.
This paper investigates the mathematical representation of time in physics. In existing theories time is represented by the real numbers, hence their formal proper- ties represent properties of time: these are surveyed. The central question of the paper is whether the existing representation of time is adequate, or whether it can or should be supplemented: especially, do we need a physics incorporating some kind of ‘dynamical passage’ of time? The paper argues that the existing mathematical framework is resistant to such (...) changes, and might have to be rejected by anyone seeking a physics of passage. Then it rebuts two common arguments for incorporating passage into physics, especially the claim that it is an element of experience. Finally the paper investigates whether, as has been claimed, ‘causal set theory’ provides a physics of passage. (shrink)
This is a chapter of the planned monograph "Out of Nowhere: The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Theories of Gravity", co-authored by NickHuggett and Christian Wüthrich and under contract with Oxford University Press. (More information at www<dot>beyondspacetime<dot>net.) This chapter investigates the meaning and significance of string theoretic dualities, arguing they reveal a surprising physical indeterminateness to spacetime.
Much apprehension has been expressed by philosophers about the method of renormalisation in quantum field theory, as it apparently requires illegitimate procedure of infinite cancellation. This has lead to various speculations, in particular in Teller (1989). We examine Teller's discussion of perturbative renormalisation of quantum fields, and show why it is inadequate. To really approach the matter one needs to understand the ideas and results of the renormalisation group, so we give a simple but comprehensive account of this topic. With (...) this in hand, we explain how renormalisation can and should be understood. One thing that is revealed is that apparently very successful theories such as quantum electro-dynamics cannot be universally true; resolving the tension between success and falsity leads to a picture in which any theory may be viewed as irreducibly phenomenological. We explain how, and argue that the support for this view is tenuous at best. (shrink)
Numerous approaches to a quantum theory of gravity posit fundamental ontologies that exclude spacetime, either partially or wholly. This situation raises deep questions about how such theories could relate to the empirical realm, since arguably only entities localized in spacetime can ever be observed. Are such entities even possible in a theory without fundamental spacetime? How might they be derived, formally speaking? Moreover, since by assumption the fundamental entities cannot be smaller than the derived and so cannot ‘compose’ them in (...) any ordinary sense, would a formal derivation actually show the physical reality of localized entities? We address these questions via a survey of a range of theories of quantum gravity, and generally sketch how they may be answered positively. (shrink)
Target Space ≠ Space.NickHuggett - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 59:81-88.details
This paper investigates the significance of T-duality in string theory: the indistinguisha- bility with respect to all observables, of models attributing radically different radii to space – larger than the observable universe, or far smaller than the Planck length, say. Two interpretational branch points are identified and discussed. First, whether duals are physically equivalent or not: by considering a duality of the familiar simple harmonic oscillator, I argue that they are. Unlike the oscillator, there are no measurements ‘outside’ string theory (...) that could distinguish the duals. Second, whether duals agree or disagree on the radius of ‘target space’, the space in which strings evolve according to string theory. I argue for the latter position, because the alternative leaves it unknown what the radius is. Since duals are physically equivalent yet disagree on the radius of target space, it follows that the radius is indeterminate between them. Using an analysis of Brandenberger and Vafa (1989), I explain why – even so – space is observed to have a determinate, large radius. The conclusion is that observed, ‘phenomenal’ space is not target space, since a space cannot have both a determinate and indeterminate radius: instead phenomenal space must be a higher-level phenomenon, not fundamental. (shrink)
Weyl symmetry of the classical bosonic string Lagrangian is broken by quantization, with profound consequences described here. Reimposing symmetry requires that the background space-time satisfy the equations of general relativity: general relativity, hence classical space-time as we know it, arises from string theory. We investigate the logical role of Weyl symmetry in this explanation of general relativity: it is not an independent physical postulate but required in quantum string theory, so from a certain point of view it plays only a (...) formal role in the explanation. (shrink)
A journey surveying the land of space, time and motion Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9575-8 Authors Christian Wüthrich, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0119, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
This is a chapter of the planned monograph "Out of Nowhere: The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Theories of Gravity", co-authored by NickHuggett and Christian Wüthrich and under contract with Oxford University Press. (More information at www<dot>beyondspacetime<dot>net.) This chapter introduces the problem of emergence of spacetime in quantum gravity. It introduces the main philosophical challenge to spacetime emergence and sketches our preferred solution to it.
This is a chapter of the planned monograph "Out of Nowhere: The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Theories of Gravity", co-authored by NickHuggett and Christian Wüthrich and under contract with Oxford University Press. (More information at www<dot>beyondspacetime<dot>net.) This chapter sketches how spacetime emerges in causal set theory and demonstrates how this question is deeply entangled with genuinely philosophical concerns.
This paper develops and defends three related forms of relationism about spacetime against attacks by contemporary substantivalists. It clarifies Newton's globes argument to show that it does not bear on relations that fail to determine geodesic motions, since the inertial effects on which Newton relies are not simply correlated with affine structure, but must be understood in dynamical terms. It develops remarks by Sklar and van Fraassen into relational versions of Newtonian mechanics, and argues that Earman does not show them (...) to trivialize the debate. (shrink)
This paper considers the implications for the relational-substantival debate of observations of parity nonconservation in weak interactions, a much neglected topic. It is argued that 'geometric proofs' of absolute space, first proposed by Kant (1768), fail, but that parity violating laws allow 'mechanical proofs', like Newton's laws. Parity violating laws are explained and arguments analogous to those of Newton's Scholium are constructed to show that they require absolute spacetime structure--namely, an orientation--as Newtonian mechanics requires affine structure. Finally, it is considered (...) how standard relationist responses to Newton's argument might respond to the new challenge of parity nonconservation. (shrink)
There has been considerable recent philosophical debate over the implications of many particle quantum mechanics for the metaphysics of individuality (cf. Huggett ). In this paper I look at things from a rather different perspective: by investigating the significance of permutation symmetry. I consider how various philosophical positions link up to the physical postulate of the indistinguishability of permuted states-permutation invariance-and how this postulate is used to explain quantum statistics. I offer an explanation of the statistics that relies on (...) the neglected parallel between permutations and covariant spatial transformation. And I explore the parallel, showing that a further kind of symmetry explains why permutations are invariant when spatial symmetries are not. (shrink)
A number of commentators (especially French and Redhead, 1988, and Butterfield, 1993) have investigated the status of the principle of the identity of indiscernibles (PII) for bosons and fermions. In this paper I extend that investigation to the full range of quantum particles of any allowed kind of statistics -- `quarticles', that is. I show that for any kind (except bosons and fermions) there are states in which PII is violated by every pair of particles, some pairs and not others, (...) and by no pairs. (shrink)
In this paper we contrast the idea of a field as a system with an infinite number of degrees of freedom with a recent alternative proposed by Paul Teller in Teller (1990). We show that, although our characterisation lacks the immediate appeal of Teller's, it has more success producing agreement with intuitive categorisations than his does. We go on to extend the distinction to Quantum Mechanics, explaining the important role that it plays there. Finally, we take some time to investigate (...) the way in which strings are to be considered fields, and the important differences with scalar fields. Overall, we aim to show that many types of systems may be viewed as fields, and to point out significant distinctions amongst them, thereby expanding our understanding of what it is to fall in this category. (shrink)
In this paper we critically review the various attempts that have been made to understand quantum field theory. We focus on Teller's (1990) harmonic oscillator interpretation, and Bohm et al.'s (1987) causal interpretation. The former unabashedly aims to be a purely heuristic account, but we show that it is only interestingly applicable to the free bosonic field. Along the way we suggest alternative models. Bohm's interpretation provides an ontology for the theory--a classical field, with a quantum equation of motion. This (...) too has problems; it is not Lorentz invariant. (shrink)
I criticize a certain view of the 'quanta' of quantum mechanics that sees them as fundamentally non-atomistic and fundamentally significant for our understanding of quantum fields. In particular, I have in mind work by Redhead and Teller (1991, 1992 and Teller 1990). I prove that classical particles do not have the rather strong flavour of identity often associated with them; permuting positions and momenta does not produce distinct states. I show that even the label free excitation formalism is compatible with (...) a mild form of atomism. Finally, I summarise some of the principle objections to an 'oscillator' interpretation of quantum fields. (shrink)
Since the collapse of the 'received view' consensus in the late 1960s, the question of scientific realism has been a major preoccupation of philosophers of science. This paper sketches the history of this debate, which grew from developments in the philosophy of language, but eventually took on an autonomous existence. More recently, the debate has tended towards more 'local' considerations of particular scientific episodes as a way of getting purchase on the issues. The paper reviews two such approaches, Fine's and (...) Hacking's, describing their positions, their prospects, and how they are related. Finally, the paper suggests that local philosophies of science offer a way for our discipline to engage more fruitfully with the public and the scientific community. (shrink)
The modeling of black holes is an important desideratum for any quantum theory of gravity. Not only is a classical black hole metric sought, but also agreement with the laws of black hole thermodynamics. In this paper, we describe how these goals are achieved in string theory. We review black hole thermodynamics, and then explicate the general stringy derivation of classical spacetimes, the construction of a simple black hole solution, and the derivation of its entropy. With that in hand, we (...) address some important philosophical and conceptual questions: the confirmatory value of the derivation, the bearing of the model on recent discussions of the so-called ‘information paradox’, and the implications of the model for the nature of space. (shrink)
This is a chapter of the planned monograph "Out of Nowhere: The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Theories of Gravity", co-authored by NickHuggett and Christian Wüthrich and under contract with Oxford University Press. This chapter analyses the nature and derivation of spacetime topology and geometry according to string theory.
This is a chapter of the planned monograph "Out of Nowhere: The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Theories of Gravity", co-authored by NickHuggett and Christian Wüthrich and under contract with Oxford University Press. (More information at www<dot>beyondspacetime<dot>net.) This chapter introduces causal set theory and identifies and articulates a 'problem of space' in this theory.
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