October 27: Doreen Fraser (University of Waterloo)
3:30 pm to 5:00 pm in DSB B107
“The non-miraculous success of formal analogies in physics”
Abstract: When physicists develop a successful new theory, philosophers often infer that the new theory is approximately true in some respects. This is the core intuition of scientific realism, captured by the ‘no miracles’ argument: that success in science is explained by getting something right about the world. However, a heuristic strategy that has been successfully deployed in quantum theory undermines this realist intuition. New quantum theories have been developed by drawing on purely formal analogies to theories that apply in different domains (i.e., the formal analogies are guided by the mathematical structure shared by the two domains, but the mathematical structure is given entirely different physical interpretations in each domain). For example, the Higgs model in particle physics was developed by analogy to models of superconductors. I will argue that the success of formal analogies in quantum theory is explicable, and that the explanation carries lessons about both the shortcomings of scientific realism and the role of analogical reasoning in science.
To view the full roster of speakers, please visit our Speaker Series page.
Date(s) - October 27, 2017
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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