HPSC4101 - Philosophy of Physics (Philosophy of Symmetry)

Semester 1 - 2013


Prerequisites: Available only to students admitted to HPS Honours, Graduate Diploma in Science (History and Philosophy of Science) and Graduate Certificate in Science (History and Philosophy of Science)
6 credit points
1x 2-hour seminar per week (see timetable)
Assessment: Presentation, paper


Symmetries have always played a central role in physical theories. Physics without symmetries would be unimaginable. They ground the very laws of physics, for laws express invariances and invariances are expressions of symmetry. But how should we understand symmetries? Should we distinguish between different kinds of symmetry? What are the philosophical implications of symmetry? In this course we will cover a vast range of types of symmetry from various branches of mathematics and physical theories, including classical mechanics, Maxwellian electromagnetism, the relativity theories, quantum theories, gauge theories and string theories, in a bid to answer these questions and more.
By the end of this unit of study you should:

  • Have a good grip on the basic formal and experimental details of quantum mechanics
  • Grasp the mathematical details underpinning quantum mechanics
  • Understand the development of contemporary positions in the philosophy of quantum mechanics
  • Be prepared for future research in philosophy of physics and philosophy of science more generally
  • Be able to present and defend an academic talk
  • Be able to write a large scale research essay