Thoroughly Modern Zeno: The Arrow, Quantum Mechanically

Laura Ruetsche
Friday, November 8, 2019 - 3:30pm

In the 5th century BCE, Zeno of Elea devised dozens of arguments against the possibilities of motion, change, and plurality. The loveliest of these, the Arrow Paradox, is briefly stated: "The flying arrow is motionless." In 1970, Wes Salmon published an anthology devoted to Zeno's Paradoxes and amply demonstrating their capacity to reward scrutiny from the perspectives afforded by mathematics and physics as they themselves move forward. Wes's introduction to that anthology was my first assignment in my first philosophy course. In 2019, I'll try to demonstrate that Zeno's paradoxes continue...

Quantum Mechanics and Christianity

Multiple Speakers
Friday, April 6, 2018 - 7:30pm to Saturday, April 7, 2018 - 2:00pm

Quantum mechanics is a strange theory, and it has been used to justify all manner of religious claims such as extra-sensory perception. This year we bring together five experts on the physics of quantum mechanics to discuss what we know and what we don’t know. We will work both to make the basic laws of quantum mechanics accessible to the non-expert, while at the same time addressing cutting-edge debates in the philosophy and application of quantum physics.


Reegister here!

Mermin in Bananaworld: Bub on Quantum Mechanics

Michel Janssen
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

 In the 1980s, David Mermin derived a simple example of a Bell inequality and showed that it is violated in measurements on entangled quantum systems. In this talk, I reanalyze Mermin’s example, using correlation arrays, the workhorse in Jeffrey Bub’s Bananaworld (2016). For the class of all non-signaling correlations conceivable in the kind of experiment considered by Mermin, I derive both the Bell inequality, a necessary condition for such correlations to be allowed classically, and the Tsirelson bound, a necessary condition for them to be allowed quantum-mechanically. I show that the Tsirelson bound for these experiments follows directly from the geometry going into their quantum-mechanical analysis. I use this example to promote Bubism (not to be confused with QBism though both are information-theoretic approaches to the foundations of quantum mechanics). I do so by comparing the rules for probabilities in quantum mechanics, illustrated by my Bubist reanalysis of Mermin’s example, to the rules for spatio-temporal behavior in special relativity.

Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
Ph.D., Philosophy, Columbia University, 2016

My research is focused on philosophical and historical questions in quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and related topics in applied mathematics. I am particularly drawn to methodological issues that arise in the practice of modern high energy physics, along with topics in the conceptual and mathematical foundations of quantum field theory. In the philosophy of applied mathematics, I am interested in what we learn about scientific representation from the the gap between the mathematical foundations of a physical theory and the (often unrigorous) calculational strategies that physicists develop to verify its empirical adequacy. On the historical side, I am especially interested in the conceptual exchange that developed between particle physics, condensed matter physics, mathematics, and computation after World War II.

Selected Publications: 
Department of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1987

My research is primarily in philosophy of physics.  It focuses primarily upon the area of condensed matter broadly construed. My interests include the foundations of statistical physics, dynamical systems and chaos, asymptotic reasoning, mathematical idealizations, the philosophy of applied mathematics, explanation, reduction, and emergence.

Current research examines issues about autonomy of theories and models at different scales in both length and time. I'm focusing a lot on lessons to be learned from materials scientists and applied mathematicians; particularly, about how one determines macroscopic parameters for continuum theories using various upscaling and homogenization techniques related to the renormalization group.

Most Cited Publications
  1. "The devil in the details: Asymptotic reasoning in explanation, reduction, and emergence," RW Batterman, Oxford University Press (2001)
  2. "On the explanatory role of mathematics in empirical science," RW BattermanBrit. J. Phil. Sci. 1 (2009)
  3. "Multiple realizability and universality," RW Batterman, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51, 115 (2000)
  4. "Minimal model explanations," Robert W Batterman and Collin C Rice.  Philosophy of Science 81.3 (2014)
  5. "Critical phenomena and breaking drops: Infinite idealizations in physics," Robert W. Batterman, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 36, 225 (2005)
Recent Publications
  1. "Universality and RG explanations," Robert W BattermanPerspectives on Science 27.1 (2019)
  2. "Autonomy of theories: An explanatory problem," Robert W BattermanNous 52.4 (2018)
  3. "Biology meets physics: Reductionism and multi-scale modeling of morphogenesis," Sara Green, Robert BattermanStudies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 61, 20e34 (2017)
  4. "Philosophical Implications of Kadanoff’s Work on the Renormalization Group," Batterman, R.WJ Stat Phys, 1 (2017)
  5. "Autonomy of theories: An explanatory problem," RW Batterman, Nous (2017)
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
Ph.D., History and Philosophy of Science, University of New South Wales, 1982

Professor Norton studies the history and philosophy of physics (relativity, quantum theory, and statistical physics), with a special interest in general relativity, and has published extensively on the detailed steps of Einstein's discovery of general and special relativity and also on many aspects of the theory's philosophical foundations. He was a contributing editor to the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, volumes 3 and 4, and was recently associate editor and coeditor of Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. He also works in general philosophy of science, with emphasis on different approaches to confirmation theory, inconsistency in theories, and thought experiments. He is editor for philosophy of physics (space and time, general physics) for the Stanford On-line Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for which he wrote the article on The Hole Argument. In 2001, Norton was one of the founders of He has written recently on the "material theory of induction" and defended the power of induction from the underdetermination thesis and grue. He has also mounted a non-Humean critique of causation. 

Selected Publications: 
  • "Chasing the Light: Einstein's Most Famous Thought Experiment," John D Norton, prepared for Thought Experiments in Philosophy, Science and the Arts, eds., James Robert Brown, Mélanie Frappier and Letitia Meynell, Routledge.
  • "Approximation and Idealization: Why the Difference Matters," John D Norton, Philosophy of Science 79, 207 (2012)
  • "Waiting for Landauer," John D Norton, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 42, 184 (2011)
  • "Challenges to Bayesian Confirmation Theory," John D Norton, Philosophy of Statistics, Vol. 7: Handbook of the Philosophy of Science. Prasanta S. Bandyopadhyay and Malcolm R. Forster (eds.) Elsevier (2011)
  • "Little boxes: A simple implementation of the Greenberger, Horne, and Zeilinger result for spatial degrees of freedom," John D Norton, American Journal of Physics 79, 182 (2011)
Recent Publications
  1. "Weeding Landauer's Garden,"  JD Norton. (2019)
  2. "Einstein's Conflicting Heuristics: The Discovery of General Relativity,"  JD Norton.  (2018)
  3. "Eternal Inflation: When Probabilities Fail,"  JD NortonSynthese (2018)
  4. "Erratum to: How to build an infinite lottery machine." Norton, J.D. European Journal for Philosophy of Sciences 8(1) pp/ 97(2018).
  5. "Maxwell's Demon Does Not Compute,"  JD Norton.  (2017)