Colloquium — "The Role of Symmetry Principles in Physics: Some Philosophical Reflections"


Location: DeBartolo Hall, Room 126

Harvey Brown, Emeritus Professor, University of Oxford, will give a talk on Friday, November 12, titled: The Role of Symmetry Principles in Physics: Some Philosophical Reflections in DeBartolo Hall, Room 126, at 3 pm.


Symmetry principles play an important heuristic role in modern physics, and to some extent this development was inspired by the work of Albert Einstein in 1905 and Emmy Noether in 1918. Noether’s work highlighted the beautiful connection between symmetries and conservation principles, like that of energy. In this informal talk I will reflect on some of the subtleties of symmetry principles that have caught the attention of philosophers of physics. I will put particular emphasis on recent developments in the Noether tradition and their significance in the context of the standard model of particle physics.

Harvey Brown is emeritus professor of philosophy of physics at Oxford University, and emeritus fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. His previous teaching position was at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil. He specializes in the foundations of modern physics, mainly quantum mechanics, relativity theory (special and general), thermal physics and the role of symmetries in physics. He is also interested in climate change and the role of forests therein.

Professor Brown is the author of Physical Relativity. Spacetime Structure from a Dynamical Perspective (2005), co-winner of the 2006 Lakatos Award in Philosophy of Science. He has published over sixty journal papers and book chapters on diverse issues in the philosophy of physics, and has co-edited two collections of essays related to the foundations of quantum field theory.

Professor Brown’s research has been supported by grants from the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Board in the UK. He has had visiting fellowships at the Departments of Philosophy and Physics at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Ontario; the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, Austrian Academy of Science; and the Faculty of Physics at the University of Vienna. In 2007 he was elected Fellow of the British Academy and was President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science from 2007 to 2009.

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