Methodology and Epistemology in Cosmology Conference
<img src="" alt="29363426060_ff7dc6aa72_b" width="1024" height="325" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-32" /> <strong>February 10-12, 2017 University of California, Irvine / Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway Room 1517</strong> <hr></hr> The twenty first century has, thus far, been a period of rapid progress in cosmology. And yet this very success has begun to expose the limits of current methods and forced cosmologists to explore new ways of learning about the universe and its history. At this conference, we will explore three related areas where methodological innovation has been called for, and where it has already begun. One theme will concern the epistemology of inflation. Does inflationary cosmology inexorably lead us to postulate a multiverse where anything that can happen does happen? And if so, what does it mean to test a theory that is compatible with anything we might observe? Or can we treat inflation as a more conventional theory, with unambiguous observational signatures? A second theme will concern dark matter and dark energy. We have inferred the existence of these entities by comparing observational evidence with models of general relativity. But one might just as well infer, from the behavior of the visible matter in the universe, that general relativity breaks down at cosmological (or even galactic) length scales. What are the prospects for alternatives to general relativity at cosmological scales? How might cosmology be used to test general relativity? The final theme will concern the role of simulation in our understanding of the history of the actual universe. Can simulations be used to test theories of the early universe? Do they provide an independent source of information about cosmology, or are they an intermediary between theory and observation? <strong>View <a href=""rel="" target="_blank">abstracts</a> and the <a href=""rel="" target="_blank">conference schedule</a>.</strong> <hr></hr> <h5>Confirmed Speakers:</h5> <ul> <a href="" target="_blank">Kev Abazajian</a> (UC Irvine) <em>The Limits of Scientific Cosmology</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Anthony Aguirre</a> (UC Santa Cruz) <em>Cosmological intimations of aggravating infinities</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Andreas Albrecht</a> (UC Davis) <em>Reflections on Cosmic Inflation</em> Feraz Azhar (Cambridge) <em>Three aspects of typicality in multiverse cosmology</em> <a href="" target="_blank">James Bullock</a> (UC Irvine) <em>Simulations and the Nature of Dark Matter</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Claudia de Rham</a> (Case Western) <em>Beyond Einstein</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Manoj Kaplinghat</a> (UC Irvine) <em>Can we understand the nature of dark matter if it does not interact with the known particles?</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Barry Madore</a> (Carnegie Observatories) <em>A Philosophically-Informed and Computationally-Coordinated, Empirical Search for Pure Dark-Matter Galaxies</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Ashley Perko</a> (Stanford University) <em>Effective Field Theory in Cosmology</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Sarah Shandera</a> (Penn State) <em>Cosmology in a finite universe</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Chris Smeenk</a> (Western) <em>Challenges to Primordial Cosmology</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Frank van den Bosch</a> (Yale) <em>Numerical Simulations in Cosmology: tool kit or Pandora box?</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Eric Winsberg</a> (USF) <em>"Testing this Extraordinary Scenario": Simulation and models of Big Bang cosmology</em> </ul> <h5>Confirmed Discussants:</h5> <ul> <a href="" target="_blank">Siska de Baerdemaeker</a> (Pittsburgh) <a href="" target="_blank">Gordon Belot</a> (University of Michigan) <a href="" target="_blank">Yann Benétreau-Dupin</a> (University of Pittsburgh) <a href="" target="_blank">Nora Boyd</a> (Pittsburgh) <a href="" target="_blank">George Ellis</a> (University of Cape Town) <a href="" target="_blank">Melissa Jacquart</a> (University of Pennsylvania) </ul> <em>Image credit: <a href="" target="_blank">NASA Hubble Space Telescope</a></em>


Physical cosmology has enjoyed decades of progress, leading to a new understanding of the cosmos and our place in it. But this success comes with new puzzles. Cosmologists seek to understand events that are far removed from us. Moreover, in many cases they study historical episodes that are apparently unique — such as the origin of the universe — and which cannot be studied experimentally. To overcome these challenges, cosmologists have often revisited basic questions concerning what constitutes an acceptable scientific theory, what sorts of explanatory demands a theory of cosmology can meet, and how to understand confirmation in this context. Their answers to these — essentially philosophical — questions have shaped the character of cosmological theory.

The principal goal of this project is to articulate and scrutinize the philosophical commitments behind cosmology’s Standard Model. With the support of a planning grant, we have conducted a landscape review of the field to identify the most significant open questions. One part of the project will present what we take to be the “philosophy of science” underlying cosmological practice, reflecting on and extending the earlier work we have reviewed. The second part of the project will dive more deeply into two pressing conceptual issues, which we identified in workshops with cosmologists supported by the planning grant: (1) the epistemological significance of the crucial role now played by simulations in linking cosmological theory with observations; and (2) the status of the large-scale structure of the universe in light of suggestions from quantum gravity that characteristic features of general relativity, such as singularities, may not persist into future theories.

In addition to this research component, the project includes outreach and capacity-building activities. It will also provide substantial training opportunities at the pre-doctoral, post-doctoral, and established researcher levels. 

News & Announcements

2018 Rotman Summer Institute in Philosophy of Cosmology
New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology Grant
Cosmology and the Future of Spacetime Conference (June 2017)

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