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Portrait by
Josephine Norton

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Includes direct links to my papers.

A synopsis of my research in history and philosophy of physics and general philosophy of science, with links to papers.

Some things are just too much fun.

Complete syllabi for my courses and the complete text, videos of "Einstein for Everyone." Also a complete text for my new undergraduate course, Paradox.

Some lecture series I have given.


Editing and Publishing

Distinguished Professor,
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh PA USA 15260
412 624 5896

Fragment of Kruskal In his treatment of spacetime singularities, Einstein privileged analytic expressions over geometry. Modern relativists do the reverse and thus find Einstein's discussion baffling. "Einstein against Singularities: Analysis versus Geometry," Download.
erasure A purely thermodynamic argument precludes dissipationless erasure. Gibbs' "- k p log p" entropy formula, properly applied, does not assign an information entropy to pre-erasure states. Suppressing fluctuations remains the principal source of dissipation in molecular scale processes. "The Simply Uninformed Thermodynamics of Erasure," download draft.
Minkowski time travel Adding a conical singularity to a Minkowski spacetime produces a temporally non-orientable spacetime that is everywhere flat excepting in regions enclosing the singularity. Time travel arises in the sense that a traveler, passing the singularity, is returned to the traveler's past where the traveler encounters the traveler's past self. "A Simple Minkowskian Time-Travel Spacetime," download draft.
Phase space image Both Wayne Myrvold and I have written pieces, relating to Landauer's principle, in which fluctuations are alluded to in their titles. We explain that the pieces are mutually compatible. (With Wayne Myrvold) "On Norton’s '...Shook...' and Myrvold’s 'Shakin’ ...' " Philosophy of Physics, Vol. 1, Issue 1, Article 5. 2023. Download.
In lotteries and bookmaking, analyzing chance systems globally provides advantages over local, probabilistic analysis. Global thinking also explains how ancient thinkers who had no theory of probability may have found physical randomizers like dice fit for their purposes in gambling, lot drawing and divination. "Lotteries, Bookmaking and Ancient Randomizers: Local and Global Analyses of Chance," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 95 (2022), pp. 108–117. Download.
A precursors to probability theory was a seventeenth century theory of chance for physical randomizers. It used combinatorics to count chances and derived a serviceable rule for determining which are fair wagers. It lacked an epistemic notion of chance and a precise means to connect chance counts and frequencies; and could not compare chances across different games. "Chance Combinatorics: The Theory that History Forgot," Perspectives on Science  31 (6), (2023), pp. 771–810. Download.
many arches In the material theory of induction, inductive inferences are warranted by domain specific facts. Those facts are in turn supported by further inductive inferences. This volume examines the large-scale structure of the resulting tangle of inductive inferences and relations of inductive support.

The Large-Scale Structure of Inductive Inference.
(Sequel to the earlier volume, The Material Theory of Induction.)

Accepted August, 2023, for publication in BSPSOpen/University of Calgary Press.

Download draft.

many arches Mousa Mohammadian, William Peden and Elay Shech have each written commentaries on The Material Theory of Induction in a symposium organized by the journal, Metascience. Here is my responses and my thanks to them. "Author’s response to Mousa Mohammadian, William Peden and Elay Shech," Symposium on The Material Theory of Induction, in Metascience. 31 (2022) pp.317–323. Download.
Which are the good inductive inferences or the proper relations of inductive support? We have sought for millennia to answer by means of universally applicable formal rules or schema. These efforts have failed. Background facts, not rules, ultimately determine which are the good inductive inferences. No formal rule applies universally. Each is confined to a restricted domain whose background facts there authorize them.

The Material Theory of Induction.

1. The Material Theory of Induction Stated and Illustrated
2. What Powers Inductive Inference?
3. Replicability of Experiment
4. Analogy
5. Epistemic Virtues and Epistemic Values: A Skeptical Critique
6. Simplicity as a Surrogate
7. Simplicity in Model Selection
8. Inference to the Best Explanation: The General Account.
9. Inference to the Best Explanation: Examples
10. Why Not Bayes
11. Circularity in the Scoring Rule Vindication of Probabilities
12. No Place to Stand: the Incompleteness of All Calculi of inductive Inference
13. Infinite Lottery Machines
14. Uncountable Problems
15. Indeterministic Physical Systems
16. A Quantum Inductive Logic
The Material Theory of Induction. BSPSOpen/University of Calgary Press, 2021.

Open access. FREE download under a CC-BY-NCND 4.0 Creative Commons license.
Infinity and chance are dangerous notions that can lead us to deep puzzlement and baffling paradoxes. Careful examination of them allows us to see past the paradoxes to a clear and controlled understanding of what was once perplexing and unapproachable. Paradox: Puzzles of Chance and Infinity
is my new on-line book for an introductory level, undergraduate course.
escapements Contrary to Hume, science has found many ways in which things connect with other things in the world. Causal metaphysics, however, has failed to add anything factual to the relations discovered by science. It is at best an exercise in labeling that may have practical uses. "The Metaphysics of Causation: An Empiricist Critique." pp. 58-94 in in Yafeng Shen, ed., Alternative Approaches to Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2024.



Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was born and grew up in Sydney Australia. I studied chemical engineering at the University of New South Wales (1971-74) and then worked for two years as a technologist at the Shell Oil Refinery at Clyde, Sydney. I then switched fields and began a doctoral program in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales (1978-1981). My dissertation was on the history of general relativity.

When it was finished, I visited at the Einstein Papers Project (1982-83) when the Papers were located at Princeton University Press with John Stachel as editor.

In September 1983, I came to Pittsburgh as a visitor in the Center for Philosophy of Science/visiting faculty member in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. I've been in the Department of HPS ever since. I was promoted to full professor in 1997, served as Chair in 2000-2005 and was promoted to Distinguished Professor in 2014. I served as the Director of the Center for Philosophy of Science, from September 2005 to August 2016.




Cathedral of Learning

Updated May 2020 and possibly later too.