John D. Norton


home >> research  
Physics, History 

History of General Relativity and Gravitation  My research interests in history of physics began with close scrutiny of Einstein's discovery of the general theory of relativity. Einstein's "Zurich notebook gives us extraordinary insight into Einstein's step by step reflections at a decisive moment in the discovery of the theory.  
History of Special Relativity and Einstein's Work of 1905  On the centenary of Einstein's annus mirabilis of 1905, I revisited his discovery of the special theory of relativity in an attempt to understand the discovery better. I also looked at Einstein work in statistical physics of 1905 and the miraculous light quantum argument.  
More in History of Science  More, including a paper on Galileo's rejection of the speeddistance law of fall; and Einstein as the greatest of the nineteenth century physicists.  
Physics, Philosophy 

Philosophy of Relativity, Space and Time  Einstein's work on general relativity raises numerous philosophical puzzles on the content and status of its foundational principles and the nature of space and time.  
Maxwell's Demon, Landauer's Principle and the Thermodynamics of Computation  A longstanding tradition in physics posits a
connect between information processing and thermodynamic entropy. It
uses the connection to protect the second law of thermodynamics from
Maxwell's demon and to map out minimum levels of thermodynamic
dissipation in computing. My reluctant conclusion is that this tradition is fatally flawed. Its results derive from misunderstandings of thermodynamics and statistical physics. 

Approximations, Idealizations and Phase Transitions  Do we really have to consider systems with infinitely many components to recover phase transitions in statistical physics? This question powers some tangled debates that I try to unravel.  
Supertasks,
Indeterminism The dome 
Supertasks involve the completion of infinitely many processes in a finite time and have unexpected properties such as indeterminism. Some exceptional simple systems may also violate determinism.  
Philosophy of Quantum Theory  Here are some papers trying to make sense of the odd world of the quantum.  
Induction and Confirmation 

Material Theory of Induction  What licenses an inductive inference is not its conformity to a universal schema, but material facts that obtain locally.  
Survey Articles  Surveys of various theories of induction.  
Critique of Bayesianism  While Bayesian confirmation theory has many important applications, I do not believe that it is the One True, Universal Logic of Induction.  
Skeptical Principles  The literature on induction hosts principled challenges to inductive inference. The best known is the "underdetermination thesis." In its strongest form, it is little more than vague speculation. I also doubt the import of "grue."  
Formal Approaches  The probability calculus has long been the default instrument for giving a mathematical account of inductive inference. I explore other possibilities.  
Case Studies  My claims about inductive inference are illustrated in case studies drawn from the history of science.  
History of Chance  Some studies of earlier ideas of chance  
General Philosophy of Science 

Thought Experiments  I have defended a deflationary view of thought experiments as merely picturesque arguments without special epistemic powers.  
Causation  The world is not fundamentally causal, I urge, in the sense that it fails to provide us with a principle of causality to which all sciences must conform.  
More Philosophy of Science  I explain the tolerance of some scientific theories for logical inconsistency in terms of content driven strategies; how theoretical terms can have stable referents contrary to the incommensurability thesis; and more: memories of the past, the two envelope paradox.  