Carleton University, Canada
Academic Year 2009-10
What Makes Physics (Un)successful?: Decentralized Experimentation Versus The Physics of Big Experiments
I have studied or taught at eight different Universities in Europe and in North America. This resulted in, among other things, many international friendships with scholars across humanities and sciences, who have been immensely helpful in coping with my numerous interests in philosophy and sciences.
In history and philosophy of physics I primarily focus on epistemological ramifications of the early debate over the foundations of quantum mechanics. I believe and argue, in my published and un-published papers, that the experimental issues predominantly drove the debate, counter to the accounts of some prominent philosophers and historians of physics. I am also working on a related project concerning the methodological foundations of early quantum mechanics. In short, the methodology that Niels Bohr employed was a variation on Bacon’s method of the so-called eliminative induction. While at the Center I will address a presumed crisis in contemporary particle physics that I believe might have to do with a major change in the nature of the experimental work after the WWII. More precisely, t he current state of physics stands, as I hope to demonstrate, in stark contrast to the early 20th century milestone development of Quantum Mechanics that can serve as a template of experimental (as well as epistemic and ontological) diversity, the current lack of which might help explain the presumed crisis.
Another aspect of my research concerns traditional problems of reductionism, determinism, and causality. I believe that our understanding of such philosophical issues should be informed by and critically assessed against relevant empirical research. Thus, I have explored how relevant contemporary approaches in the natural sciences, especially in physics and biology, may impact metaphysical debates.
- Published three papers in 2011 (http://perovich.tripod.com/id3.html).
- One more coming out in the AIP proceedings of the exciting 11th Frontiers of Fundamental Physics Conference.
- Chaired a very lively panel at the second Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation (PSX) at the University of Konstanz in October of 2011. Looking forward to PSX3 in Boulder, Colorado this fall.
- Received a research grant financed by the Ministry of Science of Serbia and the European Council for a project “Dynamic Systems in Nature and Society”.
- Took a break from extensive conference travel for a while. But the break ends this summer.
- Thinking of turning a long paper on contemporary particle physics into a book.
- Working on a book on entities and causes in biology.
- Starting an upper level philosophy of physics course this fall in collaboration with a few very able physicists.
An astrophysicist colleague of mine (we teach phil of physics together) and I got a paper on alternative interpretations of Cosmic Microwave Background accepted at the SHPMP (preprint at philsciarchive). We looked at the details of the history and epistemic ramifications of this completely sidelined debate and concluded that CMB is not a kind of evidence that emerged suddenly nor comparable to evidence we find in e.g. particle physics.
In a Synthese issue on Higgs boson and evidence edited by Richard Dawid, I looked at the details of calibrating procedures at the Large Hadron Collider in order to address a long-standing debate between Harry Collins and Allan Franklin on the so-called “experimenters’ regress”. There is a co-dependence of calibration and hypothesis testing (contrary to Franklin’s general view) but it is not a vicious circle (contrary to Collins’ view).
I organized Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation 5 in Belgrade on experiments and science policy. It was great and insightful (a few CMU people presented there). I am organizing an international intensive course on the use of computer simulations in philosophy of science for grad students at the Science Center Petnica near Belgrade. Also starting a project on philosophy of biology funded by the European Commission.