Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Philophys: What this is all about

"Philosophys" is an ugly little neologism that's short for "philosophy of physics." At least on some scale, that's what this blog is all about. But it's not just for experts, and in fact, not really even aimed at experts. Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate philosophy major, I got seduced into trying to understand what quantum theory is all about. For a long time since, I've kept on trying. I've come to a few conclusions. The first is that when it comes to the kind of detailed things that real physicists know, I'm hopeless and always will be. But the second thing is that there are some basic conceptual issues about quantum theory that can be stated, understood and thought about with a lot less than what every good physicist knows. And the third thing is that it would be good if more people were in on the thinking, not least more philosophers.

So the purpose of this intermittently-written blog is to try to put together the stuff I think people need to worry at least some of the basic issues in foundations of quantum mechanics. This includes a certain amount of math, but not a huge amount. The goal is to write in a way that would make what's written here accessible to anyone who has a good feel for high school algebra and geometry, and who's willing to learn a little more. Think of it as an attempt to put together a publicly-accessible primer in foundations of quantum mechanics. If it works. then someone who works through what's here and who has a good feel for thinking like a philosopher could read at least some of the literature in philosophy of physics without getting lost, and better yet might be able to apply some of those philosophical skills to problems that are most likely to be dealt with successfully if they're looked at from lots of different points of view.