In Munich, the advent of summer brings tentative warmth, sometimes bashful azure skies, and potentially over 16 hours of daylight to spend bathing under the green canopies of biergartens. It also signals the perennial renewal of conference season, the allures of which I am far from immune!
Already in May, I had the pleasure to be an invited discussant at the Seven Pines Symposium (May 13-17) in Stillwater, Minnesota, whose apt topic this year was “General Relativity; a hundred years after its birth”. Indeed, this November will mark the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s publication of the Einstein field equations of general relativity, in essentially the form they remain today. The symposium was aimed not just at lauding this singular intellectual triumph of Einstein’s, but also at discussing the past, present and future of gravitational theory. It was wonderful to renew contacts with old friends and make new ones at this intimate meeting.
Just a few days after returning from Minnesota, I visiting Budapest again on May 21-22, this time for the third meeting (and my second) of the Budapest-Krakow Research Group on Probability, Causality and Determinism. I was pleased to see that a good portion of the talks were devoted to a recent paper (“Hidden Variables and Incompatible Observables in Quantum Mechanics“) of my Irvine colleague Ben Feintzeig, joint work with whom I presented during the Group’s second meeting. After getting to know my Budapest and Krakow colleagues so well, I’ll be sorry to miss the fourth meeting (as I’ll be teaching at the University of Minnesota), but am hopeful for making the fifth.
After a 4-week break from traveling for professional reasons, I’m anticipating the official summer, which holds much more! Already, on the first day of the season, I’m writing from the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Istanbul, where I’m attending and presenting at my first (purely) logic conference, the 5th World School and Congress on Universal Logic, which runs from June 20-30. I’m taking advantage of the extensive program to learn more about thinking like a logician in general, and logical perspectives on the sciences, in particular. My own presentation (on June 26th) will be on counterfactuals within scientific theories, in which I’ll try to offer a new perspective on the Lewis-Stalnaker approach confined entirely to the domain of a particular, sufficiently mathematized scientific theory.
There will be no respite from travel after Istanbul, as I will travel directly to Manchester, England, on July 1st to speak at the annual meeting of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science on “Limits of Nagelian Reduction”. (Yes, it’s a pun.) I was extremely impressed with the high quality and variety of talks at last year’s event in Cambridge, and this year’s (tentative-so-far) program looks to be its equal!
I may have to miss the last session of the meeting on July 3rd, unfortunately, to fly back to Munich in time to participate in the second day of a workshop on the Problem of Time, one of the chief obstacles to a theory of canonical quantum gravity. At this workshop, organized in part by my colleague Karim Thébault, I’ll be offering a commentary on the talk by Brian Pitts about observables in Lagrangian and Hamiltonian gravity. Karim and I have been developing our own ideas about how to resolve (or rather, dissolve) the Problem, so it will be a welcome opportunity to dialogue with many of the experts on the Problem who will be in attendance.
A couple days later (July 7-10) will find me in Barcelona for the 8th Conference of the Spanish Society for Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science. In addition to meeting colleagues from across Europe and the Americas there, I’ll also be speaking on a more metaphysics-flavored topic than usual, “Classical and Quantum Holism.” This continues my previous ideas on challenging some of the conventional wisdom about quantum holism.
Finally, at the end of the month (July 27-31) I’ll return to Tübingen for the 4th Forum Scientiarum Summer School in the History and Philosophy of Science, with John D. Norton lecturing on “Idealizations in Physics”, accompanied by my excellent colleagues Radin Dardashti and Patricia Palacios. It looks to be as much of an engaging yet relaxed event as last year’s with Michel Janssen, from which I have many memories conversing along the banks of the Neckar.
In what seems like the norm for the season, I’ll have a fraction of a weekend at home in Munich before flying to speak at the colossal quadrennial 15th Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, this year in Helsinki from August 3-8. Probably the largest conference of its kind, one can easily spend the full six days just listening to talks in philosophy of physics, or in philosophy of biology, etc.
From Helsinki I travel directly to Budapest for the conference on Logic, Relativity and Beyond (August 9-13), where I will discuss some mathematical details of one of my current projects to describe and justify topologies on the class of spacetimes as structures encoding relevant notions of similarity. I’m getting to know Budapest with some intimacy now, and I’m looking forward to more fruitful discussions with Gergely Székely (whose presence I have the pleasure of having now in Istanbul) and others of the Budapest logic group interested in foundations of physics.
My last conference trip for the summer will be a big one, to the 9th Principia International Symposium in Florianópolis, Brazil (August 17-20), whose topic this year is “Possible worlds and their applications in philosophy and the sciences”. This will be not only my first talk in but also my first trip to Brazil, in particular, and South America, in general. I’m looking forward to meeting my Brazilian and Latin American colleagues, as well as a few old friends from Irvine.
Returning from Brazil will leave me with only about a week to say goodbye to all my dear friends and colleagues in Munich, as I close this European chapter and fly high towards the next on the edge of the prairie in September. But as next summer will reveal, this will not be the last one with a European setting!