Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In the aftermath of a Thanksgiving holiday reading

Over the last week, between fighting a bad cold and slumming over the various sitcoms, mysteries, and intense dramas to forget how my life suck with that cold, I took to revisiting some of the ideas I have initially toyed with in an attempt to revise the outline for my dissertation prospectus

1. Natural laws and counterfactuals: I've been reading into how physical/natural laws as produced through philosophical thought can, or not, be useful to thinking about sets, subsets and constraints when scripting the narrative of quantum reality that is the crux of my dissertation. I am probably a little skeptical of the clean lines that analytic philosophy tries to delineate when using well-known examples in classical mechanics, as well as wrt various self-referential and circular forms of logic. However, there are more to be said about laws and I may revisit this section at the later stage of my dissertation.

2. In reading two sections (I decided to skip the third section for the time being) Reichenbach's Philosophical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, I am brought back to the basics of what constitute as the most fundamental character of quantum knowledge (some of which were tackled in an undergraduate course in Quantum Mechanics but which were never made explicit). The chapter especially on geometrical interpretation is useful in the chapter where I will comparing as well as analyzing the impact of geometrical and algebraic forms of thinking in privileging of certain interpretive paths. It is a highly interesting yet very dense book that requires a close re-reading of certain sections, especially the one relating to Schroedinger's intepretation of de Broglie's principle (and using that to compare to the Bohm-de Broglie's causal interpretation of QM involving pilot waves). Reichenbach also brought back foundational questions that are still fundamental today. I will have to read more closely also what he considers to be important mathematical embodiment of QM and then compare that with the interpretive logic he is advancing.

3. Finally finished Pickering's Constructing Quark last night, begun last year while on my two-week residency at CERN (it was supposed to be in my exams reading list, but with the short time I have, and the humungous amount of work I had last spring, I never made it to the end. My summer escapades and interests also set it on a back burner until last week). Finishing the book in the aftermath of my first HCP conference (after the conference, I decided that reading related papers and then having a one-to-one conversation with the relevant physicist can be more useful, though the conference gave me a broad overview on the big picture and what is considered important in the field), I am beginning to understand better the various Kuhnian crises that led to the devolution of what was new into the old. Within 'modern' quantum physics itself, there is a separation between the old and the new, though the boundary is not so clear. QCD, a revolutionary idea in the 1970s, is now old news and well worked over. Having a better historical and sociological understanding certainly helps in framing current progress (or lack thereof).  Can one consider parity violation as the new classical conservation?

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