Symmetry considerations are at the heart of modern physics, both in quantum theory and in relativity, and discussions of the place of symmetries and asymmetries in physics occupy a central place in research in the foundations of physics. Issues that have attracted a significant amount of attention recently include the significance of gauge symmetries, the role of symmetry breaking, and questions concerning the empirical status of symmetry principles. Moreover, these issues also relate directly to traditional problems in the general philosophy of science, such as the status of the laws of nature or the relationships between mathematics, physical theory, and the world. This conference aims to contribute new ideas to these new and traditional problems.
While symmetry principles play an important foundational role in physics, our world exhibits many striking asymmetries and, in particular, several temporal asymmetries. These asymmetries include the causal asymmetry, the thermodynamic asymmetry, a cosmological asymmetry, and arguably a knowledge asymmetry. An important question is how to account for these asymmetries in a world that is believed to be fundamentally governed by symmetric laws. This conference will consider the importance of these asymmetries, examine commonalities among various asymmetries, and investigate their role in scientific reasoning.
By exploring a foundationally central cluster of issues in physics and investigating what some of our best and most fundamental physical theories are telling us about the world, this conference aims to contribute to our understanding of the world, of scientific practice, and of its success.
This conference is sponsored by the DFG and by the Working Group “Philosophy of Physics” (AGPhil) of the German Physical Society (DPG)
July 6-8, 2017