CANCELLED! Finding Meaning in Failure: The Role of Singularities in the Search for New Physics

This event has been cancelled to prevent spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Karen Crowther presents in the CPS seminar series "Mathematical methods: philosophical and ethical perspective"

Mathematical signs written on a blackboard. Photo.
The current best theories of putative "fundamental" physics---general relativity (GR), and quantum field theory (QFT)---are formally misbehaved, exhibiting (apparently) troublesome singularities. In the case of QFT, the divergences in the theories are typically interpreted as symptoms of the theory in fact being non-fundamental. On such an interpretation, the singularities are “physically informative” in the sense that they signal the limitations of the effective theories. Still, we can question whether such singularities are necessary, or whether they are informative at all. In the case of GR, the troublesome spacetime singularities (e.g., black holes and the Big Bang singularity) find a variety of different interpretations---on one extreme they are sometimes taken to be physically informative in an even stronger sense (indicating not just a breakdown of theory, but of spacetime itself?!)


Come discuss the different interpretations of singularities in physics, and the roles they could play in the search for new physics! How are the QFT and GR cases different from more "mundane" examples of singularities in physical theories? Is it acceptable for a fundamental physical theory to possess (certain types) of singularities? [Note: This is work in progress, so really just throwing around ideas. Welcome!]


The seminar is open.

Published Feb. 20, 2020 11:40 AM - Last modified Mar. 11, 2020 2:01 PM