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Bohmian Mechanics: FAQ

November 29, 2013

Bohmian Mechanics: FAQ

Wondering how Bohmian mechanics handles the two-slit experiment, how the Bohmians understand the uncertainty principles, or what Bohmians do to finesse no-hidden-variables theorems?  This video series can answer all your questions about the oldest heterodox interpretation of the quantum world.  Thanks to Shelly Goldstein for the pointer.

Could Miracles Happen?

November 14, 2013

Another great article on Aeon magazine this week is about why no one should believe in miracles, by Lawrence Shapiro.  Shapiro takes a tasty stock of Hume’s argument against miracles, adds a dash of Bayesian epistemology, and rounds things off with a nice discussion of the base-rate fallacy—surely worth a read.  But after reading it, I wondered why we don’t use this much simpler argument against supernatural intervention:


  1. Miracles violate the laws of nature.
  2. The laws of nature are exceptionless—that is, they are (expressed by) true universal generalizations
  3. Conclusion: There are no miracles.

The argument is valid, and both of its premises have a claim not merely to truth, but to conceptual truth. The first premise is a characterization of what makes God’s miraculous action supernatural: miracles contravene or override the natural laws which govern the world.  The second premise is guaranteed by most views about the laws of nature, but anyway here’s a quick argument for it: the laws of nature are nomically necessary, and necessity implies truth.  So the laws are true.  Unless something has gone wrong, we don’t merely have inductive reasons to doubt that miracles have happened (as Hume and Shapiro claim) but a priori reason: the very idea is conceptually incoherent. But of course this argument is too quick: though we may have good reason to doubt that miracles have happened, that reason is not conceptual incoherence.  What went wrong?

Read more…

Tim Maudlin on Fine Tuning

November 12, 2013

Tim Maudlin on Fine Tuning

Cosmology group researcher Tim Maudlin has a great post in Aeon Magazine about cosmic fine-tuning.  Read it there and feel free to discuss it in the comments here!

Did Planck Pop Inflation’s Big Bubble?

October 11, 2013

Did Planck Pop Inflation’s Big Bubble?

Cosmology Group post-doc Anna Ijjas is mentioned in this month’s New Scientist for her work with Paul Steinhardt on the Planck data. Unfortunately the full text of the article is behind a paywall, but if you’re looking for an interesting discussion of the controversy over inflation and Planck, you can pick it up on your local newsstand (or, of course, you can pick up a digital copy!)

Workshop Wrap-up at Engaging Science

September 25, 2013

Workshop Wrap-up at Engaging Science

Yann Benétreau-Dupin and Chris Smeenk, both participants in (and one a speaker at) our summer institute, have written up an interesting summary of the outstanding issues in philosophy of cosmology, with great links to the talks at the institute which touch on them.  Check it out!

Cosmology Summer School

June 25, 2013

The Cosmology Group’s summer school at the University of California, Santa Cruz opened yesterday with two talks by David Albert on the foundations of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.  The talks are available on youtube under the cosmology group’s channel, Phil Cosmogroup.  You can also find them on the summer school’s webpage, We’ll keep posting regularly as the school progresses, so keep an eye on our page–and if you have any questions about the talks, post them in the comments here!

Dr. Albert’s discussion focusses on the temporal asymmetries of thermodynamics; his first lecture lays the groundwork for understanding the second law of thermodynamics, outlining three formulations of it and arguing that they are deeply connected to apparently unrelated arrows of time.  His second lecture runs over Boltzmann’s  arguments motivating the second law from statistical mechanics, and introduces the reversibility objections to these arguments.

For a complete schedule of the talks at the UCSC summer institute, look here.  We’ll be posting links to the talks there as we post the talks on youtube.

Structure in Physics

April 17, 2013

Structure in Physics, a two-day conference examining the metaphysical implications of physics, will be held at Rutgers University from Friday, April 26-Saturday, April 27.  The conference will bring together leading researchers to discuss the relationship between physics and metaphysics and the metaphysical implications quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and cosmology.

For more information, see the conference webpage.