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History and Philosophy of Physics

New submissions

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New submissions for Tue, 20 Mar 18

[1]  arXiv:1803.06371 [pdf]
Title: Ludvig Lorenz (1867) on Light and Electricity
Authors: Helge Kragh
Comments: 8 pages
Subjects: History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph)

Independent of Maxwell, in 1867 the Danish physicist L. V. Lorenz proposed a theory in which he identified light with electrical oscillations propagating in a very poor conductor. Lorenz's electrodynamic theory of light, which formally was equivalent to Maxwell's theory but physically quite different from it, was published in well-known journals in German and English but soon fell into oblivion. In 1867 Lorenz also published a paper on his new theory in a semi-popular Danish journal which has generally been overlooked. This other paper is here translated into English and provided with the necessary annotations.

[2]  arXiv:1803.06770 [pdf, ps, other]
Title: Kepler's laws without calculus
Authors: William G Unruh
Subjects: History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph); Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)

Kepler's laws are derived from the inverse square law without the use of calculus and are simplified over previous such derivations.

[3]  arXiv:1803.06963 [pdf, other]
Title: Interpreting Theories without a Spacetime
Comments: 41 pages, 1 figure, forthcoming in the European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Subjects: History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph); High Energy Physics - Theory (hep-th)

In this paper we have two aims: first, to draw attention to the close connexion between interpretation and scientific understanding; second, to give a detailed account of how theories without a spacetime can be interpreted, and so of how they can be understood.
In order to do so, we of course need an account of what is meant by a theory `without a spacetime': which we also provide in this paper.
We describe three tools, used by physicists, aimed at constructing interpretations which are adequate for the goal of understanding. We analyse examples from high-energy physics illustrating how physicists use these tools to construct interpretations and thereby attain understanding. The examples are: the 't Hooft approximation of gauge theories, random matrix models, causal sets, loop quantum gravity, and group field theory.

Cross-lists for Tue, 20 Mar 18

[4]  arXiv:1803.06824 (cross-list from quant-ph) [pdf, ps, other]
Title: Indeterminism in Physics, Classical Chaos and Bohmian Mechanics. Are Real Numbers Really Real?
Authors: Nicolas Gisin
Comments: 7 pages. Presented at the David Bohm Centennial Symposium, London, Octobre 2017
Subjects: Quantum Physics (quant-ph); History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph)

It is usual to identify initial conditions of classical dynamical systems with mathematical real numbers. However, almost all real numbers contain an infinite amount of information. Since a finite volume of space can't contain more than a finite amount of information, I argue that the mathematical real numbers are not physically real. Moreover, a better terminology for the so-called real numbers is "random numbers", as their series of bits are truly random. I propose an alternative classical mechanics that uses only finite-information numbers. This alternative classical mechanics is non-deterministic, despite the use of deterministic equations, in a way similar to quantum theory. Interestingly, both alternative classical mechanics and quantum theories can be supplemented by additional variables in such a way that the supplemented theory is deterministic. Most physicists straightforwardly supplement classical theory with real numbers to which they attribute physical existence, while most physicists reject Bohmian mechanics as supplemented quantum theory, arguing that Bohmian positions have no physical reality. I argue that it is more economical and natural to accept non-determinism with potentialities as a real mode of existence, both for classical and quantum physics.

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