3 iulie 2013
Title: “Much ado about nothing – the concept of vacuum in physics and philosophy”
Speaker: Sorin Paraoanu (Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland)
The concept of vacuum appears in different branches of physics, from condensed matter physics to black holes and cosmology; most likely it will be a key element for the unification of gravitation and quantum physics. Unlike classical “emptiness”, the quantum vacuum is not an inert object: it is bursting with activity, with virtual processes of creation/annihilation occuring all the time due to quantum fluctuations. I will briefly discuss an experiment done in our lab [P. Lahteenmaki, G. S. Paraoanu, J. Hassel, and P. J. Hakonen, Dynamical Casimir effect in a Josephson metamaterial, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110, 4234 (2013)] demonstrating that one can transform these virtual particles into real ones. I will examine the implications of this experiment, as well as other related ones, on concepts such as reality (actuality) versus potentiality.
With the introduction above as an example, I will then continue with a more general discussion, with the participation of the audience, on the radical shift that happened relatively recently between physics and philosophy (especially metaphysics): in the last decades, venerable metaphysical concepts such as causality, space and time, free will, determinism, reality, etc. have become accessible to experiment and are gradually becoming part of the mainstream physics. It looks as if physics is capable of incorporating its own meta-physics. I hope to spark a dialogue on what are the consequences of this shift for the relation between physics and philosophy.