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Physics Interest Group

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Meeting time: Fridays 1:30–3:00 pm
Meeting place: 127 Shepherd Labs

The physics interest group (PIG) reads and discusses works of mutual interest in the history and philosophy of physics. We select readings for a variety of reasons: to keep up on the most exciting developments in the field, to help participants scrutinize literature relevant to their research projects (faculty or graduate student research), to provide feedback on works in progress being written by participants (graduate students, faculty, and Center visitors), to revisit classic articles in the literature, and sometimes just to have fun discussing a topic related to physics. For more information please contact Michel Janssen. If you wold like to be added to the PIG email list please send a request to

Spring 2015

January 23: Callender, C. and Wüthrich, C. "What becomes of a causal set" (2014) (pdf)
Christian Wüthrich
(UCSD) visiting

February 6: Rosaler, J. "Interpretation Neutrality in the Classical Domain of Quantum Theory."

February 20: The intertwined history of electricity, magnetism, and chemistry from Priestley to Joule (presenter: Amy Fisher)
Pancaldi, G. "On Hybrid Objects and their Trajectories: Beddoes, Davy and the Battery" Notes Rec. R. Soc. (2009) 63, 247–262 doi: 10.10998/rsnr.2009.0034 (pdf)

March 6: Woody, A.I. (2014) "Chemistry's Periodic Law: Rethinking Representation and Explanation After the Turn to Practice" in "Science after the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and Social Studies of Science" (Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Science) edited by Soler, E., Zwart, S., Lynch, M.,and Isrea-Jost, V .Chapter 4, pp. 123–150. (pdf)
Andrea Woody (University of Washington) will be visiting.

March 20: No meeting Spring Break

April 3: Wald & Will on GR (Seven Pines readings)
Robert M. WALD
W. Israel, Dark Stars: The Evolution of an Idea, in 300 Years of Gravitation, ed. by S.W. Hawking and W. Israel, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 1987). (pdf)
Wald, R.M., General Relativity, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1984) Chapter 12 (pdf)
Wald R.M., The Thermodynamics of Black Holes, Living Rev. Rel., 4, 6 (2001); arXiv:gr-qc/9912119 (pdf)
Clifford WILL
1. Was Einstein right? A centenary assessment
in General Relativity and Gravitation: A Centennial Perspective, eds. A. Ashtekar, B. Berger, J. Isenberg and M. A. H. MacCallum (Cambridge University Press), 2015, in press (
2. The Confrontation between General Relativity and Experiment
Living Reviews In Relativity 17, 4 (2014) ( 4)
3. The 1919 measurement of the deflection of light
Classical And Quantum Gravity, Focus issue on "Milestones of General Relativity", submitted (
Relativity at the centenary Physics World January 2005 27-32 The Confrontation Between General Relativity and Experiment Space Sci Rev 148: 3–13 DOI 10.1007/s11214-009-9541-62011) Finally, results from Gravity Probe B Physics 4, 43 DOI: 10.1103/Physics.4.43Einstein's Relativity and Everyday Life APS Physics Central

April 17: Wald, R.M. 2001 The Thermodynamics of Black Holes Living Rev. Rel., 4, 6 arXiv:gr-qc/9912119 and other papers from the last meeting.

May 1: Clayton Gearhart will talk about "James Franck and the experimental discovery of metastable states," an account of the work of Franck and his collaborators at Fritz Haber's KWI for Physical Chemistry in 1919-1920.  There is nothing special to read in advance, though if time in inclination permit, a quick review of the reading for the session last fall (17 October) on the Franck-Hertz experiments will help set the stage. (pdf)

Fall 2014

September 5, 2014: Introductory meeting.

September 19, 2014: Discovering the expanding universe (presenter: Michel Janssen) Helge Kragh and Robert W. Smith, "Who discovered the expanding universe?" History of Science 41 (2003): 141–162. (pdf)

October 3, 2014: QBism: Quantum mechanics and Bayesianism (presenters: Clayton Gearhart, Jos Uffink)
N. David Mermin, "Quantum mechanics: Fixing the shifty split." Physics Today 65(7) (2012): 8–9. (pdf)
Christopher A. Fuchs, N. David Mermin, and Rüdiger Schack, "An introduction to QBism with an application to the locality of quantum mechanics." American Journal of Physics 82(8) (2014): 749–754. (pdf)
Reactions to Mermin's article about QBism and Mermin's response in Physics Today, December 2012. (pdf)

October 17, 2014: Clayton Gearhart will talk about "How Franck and Hertz abandoned Thomson and came to love the Bohr atom" (pdf)

October 31, 2014: Meet this week's colloquium speaker: Jeroen van Dongen (University of Amsterdam/Utrecht University)
Jeroen  van Dongen, "Emil Rupp, Albert Einstein and the canal ray experiments on wave-particle duality: Scientific fraud and theoretical bias." Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences: Supplement 37 (2007): 73–120. (pdf)

November 14, 2014: 19th-century electromagnetism (presenter: Cameron Lazaroff-Puck)
Chapter 11 from Martin Goldman's 1984 "The Demon in the Aether: The Story of James Clerk Maxwell" Bristol: Adam Hilger. (pdf)
and Lazaroff-Puck, C. 2014. "Gearing up for Lagrangian Dynamics: The Flywheel Analogy in Maxwell's 1865 Paper on Electrodynamics" (pdf)

December 5, 2014: GIBBS@PIG (presenter: Lara van Zuilen)
Jaynes, E.T. (1992). The Gibbs Paradox in Maximum Entropy and Bayesian Methods (edited by C.R. Smith, G.J. Erickson, & P.O. Neudorfere). Dordrecht, Holland: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 1–22. 
Enric Perez Canals (2012). From identity to indistinguishability in The Circulation of Science and Technology: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference of the ESHS (edited by A. ROca-Rosell). Barcelona: SCHCT-IEC. pp. 792–798.(pdf)

Previous PIG discussion topics

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