Highlighting main issues and controversies, this book brings together current philosophical discussions of symmetry in physics to provide an introduction to the subject for physicists and philosophers. The contributors cover all the fundamental symmetries of modern physics, such as CPT and permutation symmetry, as well as discussing symmetry-breaking and general interpretational issues. Classic texts are followed by new review articles and shorter commentaries for each topic. Suitable for courses on the foundations of physics, philosophy of physics and philosophy of science, (...) the volume is a valuable reference for students and researchers. (shrink)
Symmetry considerations dominate modern fundamental physics, both in quantum theory and in relativity. Philosophers are now beginning to devote increasing attention to such issues as the significance of gauge symmetry, quantum particle identity in the light of permutation symmetry, how to make sense of parity violation, the role of symmetry breaking, the empirical status of symmetry principles, and so forth. These issues relate directly to traditional problems in the philosophy of science, including the status of the laws of nature, the (...) relationships between mathematics, physical theory, and the world, and the extent to which mathematics suggests new physics.This entry begins with a brief description of the historical roots and emergence of the concept of symmetry that is at work in modern science. It then turns to the application of this concept to physics, distinguishing between two different uses of symmetry: symmetry principles versus symmetry arguments. It mentions the different varieties of physical symmetries, outlining the ways in which they were introduced into physics. Then, stepping back from the details of the various symmetries, it makes some remarks of a general nature concerning the status and significance of symmetries in physics. (shrink)
Bewildering features of modern physics, such as relativistic space-time structure and the peculiarities of so-called quantum statistics, challenge traditional ways of conceiving of objects in space and time. Interpreting Bodies brings together essays by leading philosophers and scientists to provide a unique overview of the implications of such physical theories for questions about the nature of objects. The collection combines classic articles by Max Born, Werner Heisenberg, Hans Reichenbach, and Erwin Schrodinger with recent contributions, including several papers that have never (...) before been published. -/- The book focuses on the microphysical objects that are at the heart of quantum physics and addresses issues central to both the "foundational" and the philosophical debates about objects. Contributors explore three subjects in particular: how to identify a physical object as an individual, the notion of invariance with respect to determining what objects are or could be, and how to relate objective and measurable properties to a physical entity. The papers cover traditional philosophical topics, common-sense questions, and technical matters in a consistently clear and rigorous fashion, illuminating some of the most perplexing problems in modern physics and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
Symmetry, intended as invariance with respect to a transformation (more precisely, with respect to a transformation group), has acquired more and more importance in modern physics. This Chapter explores in 8 Sections the meaning, application and interpretation of symmetry in classical physics. This is done both in general, and with attention to specific topics. The general topics include illustration of the distinctions between symmetries of objects and of laws, and between symmetry principles and symmetry arguments (such as Curie's principle), and (...) reviewing the meaning and various types of symmetry that may be found in classical physics, along with different interpretative strategies that may be adopted. Specific topics discussed include the historical path by which group theory entered classical physics, transformation theory in classical mechanics, the relativity principle in Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, general covariance in his General Theory of Relativity, and Noether's theorems. In bringing these diverse materials together in a single Chapter, we display the pervasive and powerful influence of symmetry in classical physics, and offer a possible framework for the further philosophical investigation of this topic. (shrink)
In recent years, a ''change in attitude'' in particle physics has led to our understanding current quantum field theories as effective field theories (EFTs). The present paper is concerned with the significance of this EFT approach, especially from the viewpoint of the debate on reductionism in science. In particular, I shall show how EFTs provide a new and interesting case study in current philosophical discussion on reduction, emergence, and inter-level relationships in general.
A draft version of Chapter 11 of the edited volume 'Interpreting Bodies. Classical and Quantum Objects in Modern Physics',. The Chapter is devoted to illustrating the group-theoretic approach to the issue of physical objects. In particular, the Chapter discusses the group-theoretic constitution of classical and quantum particles in the nonrelativistic case.
In recent years, a change in attitude in particle physics has led to our understanding current quantum field theories as effective field theories. The present paper is concerned with the significance of this EFT approach, especially from the viewpoint of the debate on reductionism in science. In particular, it is a purpose of this paper to clarify how EFTs may provide an interesting case-study in current philosophical discussion on reduction, emergence and inter-level relationships in general.
Weak/strong duality is usually accompanied by what seems a puzzling ontological feature: the fact that under this kind of duality what is viewed as 'elementary' in one description gets mapped to what is viewed as 'composite' in the dual description. This paper investigates the meaning of this apparent 'particle democracy', as it has been called, by adopting an historical approach. The aim is to clarify the nature of the correspondence between 'dual particles' in the light of an historical analysis of (...) the developments of the idea of weak/strong duality, starting with Dirac's electric-magnetic duality and its successive generalizations in the context of field theory, to arrive at its first extension to string theory. This analysis is then used as evidential basis for discussing the 'elementary/composite' divide and, after taking another historical detour by analysing an instructive analogy case, drawing some conclusions on the particle-democracy issue. (shrink)
Is there more that one "Curie's principle"? How far are different formulations legitimate? What are the aspects that make it so scientifically fruitful, independently of how it is formulated? The paper is devoted to exploring these questions. We start with illustrating Curie's original 1894 article and his focus. Then, we consider the way that the discussion of the principle took shape from early commentators to its modern form. We say why we think that the modern focus on the inter-state version (...) of the principle loses sight of some of the most interesting significant applications of the principle. Finally, we address criticism of the principle put forward by Norton and purported counterexamples due to Roberts. (shrink)
This is the first of two papers concerned with the philosophical significance of dualities as applied in recent fundamental physics. The general idea is that, for its peculiarity, this ‘new’ ingredient in theory construction can open unexpected perspectives in the current philosophical reflection on contemporary physics. In particular, today’s physical dualities represent an unusual type of intertheory relation, the meaning of which deserves to be investigated. The aim is to show how discussing this point brings into play, at the same (...) time, what is intended by a 'theory’ and in which sense dualities are to be considered 'symmetries'. This paper is introductory and focusses on the first form of duality explicitly applied in twentieth century physics, that is electromagnetic duality as discussed in Dirac’s theory of magnetic poles. The extension of electromagnetic duality in the context of quantum field theory and string theory is explored in a forthcoming companion paper. (shrink)
This is the review paper for the section III ("Symmetry breaking") of the volume "Symmetries in physics: philosophical reflections", Cambridge University Press, 2003, edited by Katherine A. Brading and Elena Castellani. The paper's sections are: 1. Preliminaries (I); 2. Symmetry breaking and Curie's analysis; 3. Preliminaries (II); 4. Symmetry breaking of physical laws (4.1. Explicit symmetry breaking; 4.2. Spontaneous symmetry breaking); 5. Symmetry breaking and philosophical questions.
We argue that dualities offer new possibilities for relating fundamentality, levels, and emergence. Namely, dualities often relate two theories whose hierarchies of levels are inverted relative to each other, and so allow for new fundamentality relations, as well as for epistemic emergence. We find that the direction of emergence typically found in these cases is opposite to the direction of emergence followed in the standard accounts. Namely, the standard emergence direction is that of decreasing fundamentality: there is emergence of less (...) fundamental, high-level entities, out of more fundamental, low-level entities. But in cases of duality, a more fundamental entity can emerge out of a less fundamental one. This possibility can be traced back to the existence of different classical limits in quantum field theories and string theories. (shrink)
The physics and metaphysics of identity and individuality Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9463-7 Authors Don Howard, Department of Philosophy and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA Bas C. van Fraassen, Philosophy Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA Otávio Bueno, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA Elena Castellani, Department of Philosophy, University of Florence, Via Bolognese 52, 50139 (...) Florence, Italy Laura Crosilla, Department of Pure Mathematics, School of Mathematics, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT UK Steven French, Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK Décio Krause, Department of Philosophy, Federal University of Santa Catarina, 88040-900 Campus Trindade, Florianópolis, SC Brazil Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796. (shrink)
The relevance of symmetry to today's physics is a widely acknowledged fact. A significant part of recent physical inquiry – especially the physics concerned with investigating the fundamentalbuilding blocks of nature – is grounded on symmetry principles andtheir many and far-reaching consequences. But where these symmetries come from and what their real meaning is are open questions, at the center of a developing debate among physicists and philosophers of science. To tackle the problems arising in considering the symmetry issue is (...) the main purpose of this paper. Starting with briefly recalling the bases for the discussion – how symmetry enters and operates in physics, its special effectiveness in the quantum domain and the many relevant functions it performs (Sections 1–3), the paper then focus on the general interpretative questions that arise and the sorts of answers that have been given (Section 4). (shrink)
No evidence of “new physics” was found so far by LHC experiments, and this situation has led some voices in the physics community to call for the abandonment of the “naturalness” criterion, while other scientists have felt the need to break a lance in its defense by claiming that, at least in some sense, it has already led to successes and therefore should not be dismissed too quickly, but rather only reflected or reshaped to fit new needs. In our paper (...) we will argue that present pro-or-contra naturalness debates miss the fundamental point that naturalness, despite contrary claims, is essentially a very hazily defined, in a sense even mythical notion which, in the course of more than four decades, has been steadily, and often not coherently, shaped by its interplay with different branches of model-building in high-energy physics and cosmology on the one side, and new incoming experimental results on the other. In our paper we will endeavor to clear up some of the physical and philosophical haze by taking a closer look back at origin of naturalness in the 1970s and 1980s, with particular attention to the early work of Kenneth Wilson. In doing this, we aim to bring to light how naturalness belongs to a long tradition of present and past physical and philosophical criteria for effectively guiding theoretical reflection and experimental practice in fundamental research. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the problem of the validity of Leibniz's principle of the identity of indiscernibles in physics. After briefly surveying how the question is currently discussed in recent literature and which is the actual meaning of the principle for what concerns physics, we address the question of the physical validity of Leibniz's principle in terms of the existence of a sufficient number of naming predicates in the formal language of physics. This approach allows us to obtain in (...) a formal way the result that a principle of the identity of indiscernibles can be justified in the domain of classical physics, while this is not the case in the domain of quantum physics. (shrink)
This is a draft of the introduction to the collective volume "The birth of string theory", including the book's index and preface. The book explores the history of the theory’s early stages of development, as told by its main protagonists. It journeys from the first version of the theory in the late 1960s, as an attempt to describe the physics of strong interactions outside the framework of quantum field theory, to its reinterpretation around the mid-1970s as a quantum theory of (...) gravity unified with the other interactions, and its successive developments up to the superstring revolution in 1984. The introductive Chapter summarizes the main developments and contains a chronological synopsis with a list of key results and publications. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question as to whether the methodology followed in building/assessing string theory can be considered scientific in the same sense, say, that the methodology followed in building/assessing the Standard Model of particle physics is scientific, by focussing on the "founding" period of the theory. More precisely, its aim is to argue for a positive answer to the above question – there is no real change of scientific status in the way of proceeding and reasoning in fundamental physical (...) research – in the light of a historical analysis of the early developments of the string theoretical framework. (shrink)
In the context of astrophysical modeling at the solar system scale, we investigate the modalities implied by taking into account different levels of detail at which phenomena can be considered. In particular, by framing the analysis in terms of the how-possibly/how-actually distinction, we address the debated question as to whether the degree of plausibility is tightly linked to the degree of detail. On the grounds of concrete examples, we argue that, also in the astrophysical context examined, this is not necessarily (...) the case. (shrink)
This paper is devoted to examining the relevance of Dirac's view on the use of transformation theory and invariants in modern physics --- as it emerges from his 1930 book on quantum mechanics as well as from his later work on singular theories and constraints --- to current reflections on the meaning of physical symmetries, especially gauge symmetries.
The papers posted under the heading 'Symmetries in Physics, New Reflections: Oxford Workshop, January 2001' were presented and discussed at the corresponding workshop. As the organisers, we give a brief summary of the purpose of the workshop, and list the talks and the participants.