2019 Cushing Prize Lecture and Workshop

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Location: 184 Nieuwland Science Hall

The 2019 James T. Cushing Memorial Prize in History and Philosophy of Physics was awarded to Neil Dewar, an Assistant Professor in the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, for his paper, “Maxwell Gravitation,” which was published in Philosophy of Science in 2018. The title and abstract for his talk is presented below.

A workshop will also be held prior to the Cushing Prize Lecture. These workshop presentations will be held in E478 Corbett Hall, starting at 10:00 AM. For a detailed schedule, please follow this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=19Z3TTHEkDspL3vaFLtOEOneFtlTS2-1h

The Form of Space

As Einstein illustrated his elevator thought-experiment, the experience of freely falling in a uniform gravitational field is indistinguishable from the experience of floating weightlessly in the absence of any gravity whatsoever. This observation can be given precise expression in Newtonian gravitational theory, and is associated with the presence of a certain kind of symmetry: a uniform acceleration applied to all bodies, accompanied by a uniform change to the gravitational field. This, in turn, suggests that it should be possible to reformulate Newtonian gravitational theory in such a way that all accelerations are relative, and which dispenses with the gravitational field. In this talk,
I’ll briefly outline one way of doing so, and how it compares to other versions and formulations of Newtonian gravitation. I’ll also comment on some of the other questions in the foundations of Newtonian theory that this issue has helped to illuminate.