Archive for October, 2014


“The Origins of Schwinger’s Euclidean Green’s Functions” (10/30/14)

October 30, 2014

Michael Miller

Abstract: This talk answers the following question: given that quantum field theory is a theory designed to represent fields in Minkowski space, what motivated Schwinger to develop a Euclidean space formalism for the theory? I answer this question by first considering the development of his functional differential equations for field theory, and the reasoning leading to physical boundary conditions for those equations. Then I discuss Schwinger’s discovery of a regularity requirement on the Green’s functions appearing in his equations which was equivalent to the imposition of the physical boundary conditions. Finally I explain how the discovery of this equivalence was the essential motivation for the development of the Euclidean space formalism.


“Boundary Work: Nanoscience Meets Philosophy at Material Surfaces” (10/23/14)

October 21, 2014

Julia Bursten

Abstract: Nanoscience is an inherently interdisciplinary field of study. Because it developed around a scale, rather than a set of laws or phenomena, it invites research programs from fields as diverse as materials science, biology, physics, chemistry, engineering, and design. For instance, gold nano-cubes are synthesized and characterized by chemists and physicists; modeled on computers by mechanical engineers; studied for their color-changing properties in stained glass by art historians, designers, and materials scientists; and manipulated for smarter drug delivery by chemists and biologists.
This scale-centric character of nanoscience means that knowledge in nanoscience is often grouped not along disciplinary lines, but rather around instrumentation techniques (as Mody (2011) has argued), around individual materials, as described above, or around particular applications. Consequently, the structure of knowledge in nanoscience is better understood as clusters of Galisonian “trading zones,” rather than a taxonomy of laws, theories, models, and heuristics. These trading zones permit contributions from diverse research perspectives—including those from history and philosophy of science.
I have spent over 2 years working with a nanoscience laboratory with the aim of understanding the structure of knowledge in nanoscience. Through this work I have become convinced that philosophers and historians of science can impact the development of new knowledge in nanoscience alongside practitioners in STEM fields. My talk shows how contributions from history and philosophy of science can provide new knowledge in nanoscience by describing how philosophical reflection on the concept “surface” led to reforms in experiment design in my lab.

Reflexions on Time 10/17/14

October 21, 2014

Shahin Kaveh

Abstract: My goal in this talk is to argue that while fundamental notions such as the “now”, the “here”, and the “I” might be similar in that they are not analyzable in terms of eternal, scientific truths, there is a problem specific to time. This peculiarity means, I will argue, that we cannot simply append “the now” to the eternal truths of science as an add-on. I begin by dissecting the text of McTaggart (1908) and explaining his arguments to the effect that time is unreal. I shall then reinterpret McTaggart’s arguments in terms of two problems, which I call the Additional Fact Problem and the Reflexivity Problem. I will argue that the former problem is shared among indexicals such as “I”, “here”, and “now”, while the latter problem is specific to the “now”. I then claim that due to the reflexivity of time, physical science cannot account for all facts of experience. I will continue to explore the idea of reflexivity by making several attempts at constructing a hypothetical spatial axis that features reflexivity.