Category Archives: Other Travel

Summer Travels

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!

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Interterm Break (?)

January saw me visit Cologne to give a seminar talk at the Gravitation and Relativity group of the University’s Institute for Theoretical Physics and at the conference on Quantum Information, Quantum Computation, and the Exact Sciences that I helped organize.  (Don’t fret: my submission was double-blind reviewed, too!)  Also, an article of mine, “Similarity, Topology, and Physical Significance in Relativity Theory,” has finally appeared online at the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. In that article, I show that the notion of the “physical significance” of a property of a relativistic spacetime depends on whether sufficiently similar spacetimes also have that property, hence on articulating how different spacetimes can be similar.  This can be done by choosing a topology on all the different spacetimes, but I argue that there cannot be one true topology: different choices are required for different contexts of investigation. Check out an abstract or the full text (in HTML or PDF).

Now that the 10-week break between the German winter and summer terms has commenced, you might think that it would be time for some quiet days at the office.  But nothing could be further from the truth!  It’s a convenient—perhaps too convenient!—time to give talks and visit colleagues outside of Germany without worrying about scheduling conflicts at home (in Munich).  First up on February 11 is a visit to the Department of Philosophy, Communication and Media Studies at the University of Rome 3, where I’ll be speaking in their Current Research in Philosophy of Science Seminar Series.

Next, starting at the end of February, is a series of visits, including my first trip to the Netherlands!  This series starts in Paris on February 27, where I’ll be giving a talk at the Institute for History and Philosophy of Sciences and Technology (IHPST), a joint research institute of the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, ENS, and CNRS.  A short ride on Thalys will bring me to Amsterdam University College on March 2, where I’ll be leading an introductory (and interactive!) discussion on some aspects of mathematical philosophy in the Who’s in Town lecture series.  The next two days, March 3–4, will be a research visit to Radboud University Nijmegen, where I’ll have a lunch seminar on some of my work in mathematical physics and also talk with Sean Gryb about the boundaries and relationships between shape dynamics and general relativity.  March 5 I’ll find myself in Utrecht to give a lecture for the HPS Master’s program, then the next day in Rotterdam for a workshop on Space-Time Structuralism (both graciously organized by Fred Muller).  Finally, before returning to Munich, I’ll jaunt up to Groningen to speak at a March 9 double colloquium in the Faculty of Philosophy on the Likelihood Principle!

After a very brief respite, I’ll fly to Belgrade to give talks at the Astronomical Observatory on March 12 and the Department of Philosophy on March 13 before flying to Berlin for the enormous 79th annual meeting of the German Physical Society, which runs from March 15–20.  My own talk at the meeting is at 9:30 on Thursday, March 19.  I’m looking forward not only to meeting many colleagues, but also to catching up on the latest developments in other areas of physics.

After traveling for over three weeks, I’ll then be glad to be back home in Munich, if only for about five days!  Indeed, I’ll be giving a talk at the March 26–28 conference on “Formal Methods and Science in Philosophy” at the Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik, then traveling to Dorfgastein, Austria for an Alpine retreat on “Rethinking Foundations of Physics” from March 28–April 4 with other twenty other young philosophers, mathematicians, and physicists.  It should be an intense experience!

Returning from the fresh mountain air (and having avoided the radon baths!), I’ll have about five days to complete the last preparations for the first Munich Graduate Workshop in Mathematical Philosophy, which runs from April 9–11.  The topic this year, yes, is philosophy of physics!  As one of the co-organizers (along with Brian PaddenPatricia Palacios, and Karim Thébault), I’m particularly excited about the somewhat innovative format: in addition to the usual keynote and student talks, there will be three working groups that will meet daily for focused discussion on some open questions at the forefront of contemporary research.  Soon after the workshop is completed I’ll head back to Dubrovnik from April 13–17 for the annual Philosophy of Science conference, whose three topics this year are: philosophy of physics; science, technology, and values; and the philosophy of the history of science.

The summer term will already be in swing by the time I return—again (!), for about five days—before I make my first trip to Scandinavia on April 23–24 for the third annual meeting of the Nordic Network for Philosophy of Science in Helsinki.  At this point—unsurprisingly—about another five days will transpire before my next talk on April 30, but—surprisingly—it will be right at home in Munich (as a part of the Work in Progress Colloquium)!

Who needs to schedule lectures with vacations like these?

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Autumnal Talks and Travels

October is yielding just as much excitement as this past summer of wanderlust, but here at home in Munich!  The term has now commenced, bringing new faces to the MCMP. Having already met some of them, maybe I’ll see more at my talk at the Center’s philosophy of science colloquium series on October 15th, or even on October 14th at the biweekly philosophy of physics reading group on classical mechanics that I’m convening this term.  (The first reading is Mark Wilson‘s entry on “Classical Mechanics” in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

The travel starts again in early November, first to the big tent event—not the Oktoberfest, of course, but the Philosophy of Science Association’s Biennial Meeting! There I’ll be chairing the symposium on the foundations of gravity and thermodynamics, which features many friends and colleagues, including Erik Curiel, Craig Callender, Karim Thébault, Eric Winsburg, Radin Dardashti, Bob Wald, and David Wallace.  It will be my first (albeit brief) return to the US since moving to Munich in late June.

Then, from 17–18 November I’ll be in Bucharest to give a talk at the Philosophy Faculty and participate in a half-day philosophy of physics workshop with Slobodan Perovic, all organized by Iulian Toader.  This (American) Thanksgiving will see me on a flight to Paris to attend a workshop on quantum mechanical entanglement.  I hope to catch up on what’s hot in the subject apropos of a little, germinal project I have on re-evaluating quantum holism.

December will see more travels to interesting new places, first to give a colloquium talk at the University of Salzburg on December 2nd, and then on 8–9 December to Krakow as an honorary participant of the Budapest-Krakow Research Group on Probability, Causality and Determinism.  Finally, I’m organizing an Irvine-Munich workshop (with Karim Thébault) on foundations of field theories that will take place on December 14th.  More on that to come as the details are finalized!

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The Near and Present Future

Present Future

I’m excited to present some new work on “Global Spacetime Similarity” at the IPP2 at UC Irvine later this week (March 20 & 21).  Here’s the abstract for my talk:

There are two classes of topologies most often placed on the space of Lorentz metrics on a fixed manifold. As I interpret a complaint of Geroch (1970, 1971), however, neither of these standard classes correctly captures a notion of global spacetime similarity. In particular, Geroch presents examples to illustrate that one class, the compact-open topologies, in general seems to be too coarse, while another, the open (Whitney) topologies, in general seems to be too fine.  After elaborating further the mathematical and physical reasons for these failures, I then construct a topology that succeeds in capturing a notion of global spacetime similarity and investigate some of its mathematical and physical properties.

Beyond the intrinsic value of being able to compare spacetimes globally, having such a notion also provides a way to make the concept of an approximate (global) spacetime symmetry precise.  Cosmologists and astrophysicists often idealize certain systems of interest (e.g., the universe or an isolated star or black hole) as having particular perfect symmetries, such as being homogeneous and isotropic, or static and spherical symmetric.  One would like to say something definite about why (certain) inferences from these idealized models can produce reliable knowledge about their physical target systems.  I take part of the story to consist in an account of which kinds of inferences are stable when one moves from perfect to approximate symmetry.

After the conference, from March 23 to April 15, I’ll be in the Steel City to visit Profs. Robert Batterman and John D. Norton at the University of Pittsburgh’s Departments of Philosophy and History and Philosophy of Science, respectively.  This trip is the second part of the DDIG-sponsored excursion I’ve mentioned before. I’m looking forward to much discussion about idealization, approximation, and intertheoretic reduction in the physical sciences with them and other dear colleagues at the beautiful Cathedral of Learning.

Near Future

But the biggest and most exciting pieces of news of the season come from Bavaria and the Upper Midwest!  In late June I will join the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at Ludwig Maximilians Universität for 14 months as a Marie Curie Fellow.  Specifically, I will be supported through an International Incoming Fellowship from the Marie Curie Actions program of the European Commission.  I’d encourage other researchers in philosophy to check out this program: although the fellowships are very competitive, they provide some of the most generously funded research opportunities in Europe.

Then, in late August of 2015, I will move to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to join the Department of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities as an Assistant Professor.  I’m especially eager to work with my new colleagues there to provide outstanding curricula for students and to be part of all the exciting things happening at the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science.

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Visiting Seattle

Through a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, I will be visiting Prof. John Manchak and the University of Washington’s Department of Philosophy from September 29 through October 12.  I’m looking forward to many stimulating conversations regarding similarity among spacetimes and other topics in the foundations of general relativity.

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