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Laszlo Szabo (Eotvos University): “Empirical definitions of spatiotemporal conceptions”
4 June 2018, 5:15 pm – 6:45 pm
Abstract: First I will argue for the inevitability of a coherent, non-circular system of operational definitions of the basic spatiotemporal quantities, in terms of which the empirically testable spatiotemporal statements of physics should be expressed. A few examples will illustrate that the task is not trivial, especially if the definitions should hold with high, relativistic, precision. In my talk, I will outline a possible construction of such a system of operational definitions. It will be seen that the complete collection of operational definitions, by means of which one can reconstruct something similar to our usual spatiotemporal intuitions, would require the satisfaction of certain conditions. Whether these conditions are satisfied is an empirical question which has never truly been examined. Some speculative considerations show however an interesting picture. If all conditions are empirically satisfied then the resulted spacetime structure is a Minkowski geometry. If however, as it is expected, some of the important conditions are violated, it is not at all obvious what the resulted spacetime structure is. Nevertheless, straightforward generalizations of Minkowski geometry offer themselves as suitable mathematical description of the empirically ascertained spacetime structure; more straightforward than Riemannian geometry on a four-dimensional manifold.
László Szabó is a Professor of Philosophy at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.
In addition to being a Sigma Club event, this talk is part of a two part lecture series on Professor Szabó on the foundations of physics. The other lecture occurs on the morning after this one, on June 5th.