Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking
Green College Coach House - December 11, 2002

John Earman

University of Pittsburgh

Philosophers have long been interested in the topic of laws and symmetries. But only recently have they begun to take into account the importance of symmetry breaking in physics. The aim of this talk is to explain what is involved in so-called spontaneous symmetry breaking and its implications for the foundations of quantum field theory.

This 3rd Green college seminar turns to the philosophy of physics. Some of the deepest principles in physics, which have been used to great effect in discovering new laws (particularly where they concern quantum phenomena) are those connected with symmetries. Here a very well-known philosopher of science takes a look at this topic, and in particular spontaneous symmetry-breaking (which has allowed unification of almost all our fundamental forces, and which originally came from condensed matter physics).

Prof. John Earman is probably the world's foremost philosopher of Science, at least amongst those dealing with physics. He has written on a wide variety of topics ranging across most of physics, including quantum mechanics, gravity and general relativity, and statistical physics.

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