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Special ICMT Seminar: "The Devil in the Details: A Philosopher Looks at the Renormalization Group"

Event Type
Dept. of Physics
190 ESB
Oct 11, 2013   11:00 am  
Prof. Robert Batterman (University of Pittsburgh)
Originating Calendar
Physics - Institute for Condensed Matter Theory Seminar

Philosophers of science have long been interested in the topic of explanation.  By far the majority of views about the nature of explanation assert that to explain is to provide the (causal) details that bring about the phenomenon to be explained.  So a phenomenon is explained and understood if we can show why it had to occur.  This reflects a very myopic view of the nature of scientific investigation.  It misses, completely, the fact that different systems can display similar patterns of behavior---universality. This talk focuses on the nature of universality and how the renormalization group can provide an explanation of the very possibility of universal behavior. It will also focus on how the renormalization group can justify the use of minimal models in explanatory contexts.

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