Tag Archives: philosophy

In Search of the Physics of Causation

Does the world work on cause and effect or is this a world of random chaos? This question needs exploration at the universe’s smallest scale, far smaller than that of the atom. We are coming to see the answer is: neither and both! Long ago, physicists as well as philosophers wrestled with this question. Albert […]

Our Greek Tragedy

No doubt political science is political. Recent travel through the Balkans renewed questions about: Is it science? Greece is out of the news except when refugees grab headlines. In Thessaloniki one could sense a certain un-Greek gloom. Not surprising. Most Greeks want to be in the EU. The EU keeps on treating them as almost […]

The Origins of Einstein’s Ideas

Albert Einstein is mostly known for physics theories. Or for E=mc2 (though he didn’t write it in that way). But his biggest contribution was the boldness, number, depth, diversity, originality and sometimes sheer courage of his ideas. Every one of these ideas was controversial at the time; now they underpin the world economy. What’s the […]

Fields of Dreams

Here is a mystery that needs help from armchair philosophers. Nowadays physics describes the world in terms of “fields”. What, then, is a field? It is weasel math that physicists invented to allow them to ignore the paradox of action at a distance. In the annals of thought the concept of action at a distance […]

The Problem of Time

What is time? This is the central mystery of physics. One might think that physics would give a clear answer. Not so. Although most physics is about change, it has lost touch with time. Indeed physics now cloaks time in myths. Let’s see what we can find behind them. British physicist Edward Anderson says: ‘The […]

No Number is Very Large

This week we venture into mathematical philosophy to shine a light on some long-standing mind benders that maybe we can now resolve. And they turn out to be profoundly practical. Does infinity exist or is it a figment of imagination? Are numbers a property of the universe that we discover or are they ideas we […]

Einstein’s Funhouse Mirror

Physics beat out chemistry to become the Senior Science in the second physics revolution starting around 1900. A hundred years ago this revolution held huge promise. Now historians of science call it the Unfinished Revolution. What went wrong? It is a strange but, in the end, illuminating five-part story. Part One: In 1851 mathematician Bernhard […]

Lessons from Lost Worlds

In The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time Brazilian philosopher, Roberto Unger, and American physicist, Lee Smolin, team up to bring unruly mathematics and fanciful multiverses under control. They seek a renaissance of natural philosophy—ideas—as a driver of future physics. Let’s swing along with them. Central to their thesis is the idea of the […]