Ass. Prof. Karen Crowther (UiO): When do we stop digging? Conditions on a fundamental theory of physics

Karen Crowther is visiting the Science Studies Colloquium Series. Crowther is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo. She specializes in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of physics. Crowther is interested in the nature of fundamental physical theories, as well as the idea of emergent physics, and the relationship between these different `levels’ of description. Much of her research has focused on effective field theory, spacetime and quantum gravity. Crowther's current project explores the roles of principles and other non-empirical guides to scientific theory construction and evaluation. In particular, she is looking at the different non-empirical guides involved in the search for quantum gravity. Before coming to Oslo, Crowther was a postdoc at the University of Geneva and University of Pittsburgh. She received her PhD from the University of Sydney.

The seminar is open for everyone!

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In seeking an answer to the question of what it means for a theory to be fundamental, it is enlightening to ask why the current best theories of physics are not generally believed to be fundamental. This reveals a set of conditions that a theory of physics must satisfy in order to be considered fundamental. Physics aspires to describe ever deeper levels of reality, which may be without end. Ultimately, at any stage we may not be able to tell whether we've reached rock bottom, or even if there is a base level---nevertheless, I draft a checklist to help us identify when to stop digging, in the case where we may have reached a candidate for a final theory. Given that the list is---according to (current) mainstream belief in high-energy physics---complete, and each criterion well-motivated, I argue that a physical theory that satisfies all the criteria can be assumed to be fundamental in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

Published Dec. 6, 2019 3:50 PM - Last modified Feb. 17, 2020 2:02 PM