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James Wills (LSE): “Classical Particle Indistinguishability, Precisely.”

24 May 2021, 1:30 pm3:00 pm

This event will take place online via Zoom. 

Everyone is welcome to join using a computer with access to the internet and Zoom. To take part just follow these instructions:

Please note that these events are routinely recorded, with the edited footage being made publicly available on our website and YouTube channel. We will only record the audio, the slides and the speaker and will not include the Q&A section. However, any question asked during the talk itself will feature in the final edit.

Abstract: I present an analysis of classical particle indistinguishability as ‘observational indistinguishability’ in a certain mathematically precise sense. I will argue that this leads to three interesting and welcome consequences in the foundations of statistical mechanics: (1) The identification and resolution of shortcomings in the ongoing debate concerning the solution to the N! problem: the problem in statistical mechanics of justifying the inclusion of a factor N! in a probability distribution over the phase space of N indistinguishable classical particles. (2) A reinterpretation of the quotienting procedure typically used to justify the N! term and a rigorous derivation of the N! factor which does not appeal to the metaphysics of particles and which rather draws only on facts about observables. (3) A reconstruction of Gibbs’ own argument as a special case of my analysis in which particles are observationally indistinguishable with respect to the Hamiltonian. I call this ‘dynamical indistinguishability’.


24 May 2021
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Event Category:




Online via Zoom