Why is the Universe Left-Handed?
7:30 pm, April 20, Green College Coach House

Simon Saunders

Philosophy, Oxford University

What is it for a hand to be a left hand rather than a right hand? - can it be put into words? Is there a distinct mathematical concept here? Simple as the question is, it tormented one of the greatest philosophers of the modern period, Immanuel Kant, and precipitated his rejection of Leibniz's metaphysics (his "critical turn"). Strangely, it is still relevant today, and not only to philosophers: given parity violation of the weak interaction (the reason the universe is left-handed!), the equations concerned must single out one sort of handed process, rather than the other. How? Mathematicians typically deny that "left-handed" is a mathematical concept: the mystery deepens. Is Kant's solution still germane today? Is "left-handed" a concept that cannot be expressed, that can only be shown?

For more information about Simon Saunders, visit his website.

Additional resources for this talk: video.