David Baker awarded National Science Foundation grant for "Identical Particles and Statistics in Superselection Theory" project
Assistant Professor David Baker, in collaboration with Hans Halvorson (Princeton University), has been awarded a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Studies grant for the 2011/2012 academic year. The project aims to recast long-standing philosophical questions about identical particles in quantum mechanics within the more fundamental domain of quantum field theory. The quantum physics of identical particles and their statistics has complicated, and in some cases demolished, naive philosophical accounts of identity. But so far, philosophers of physics have overwhelmingly studied statistics in basic quantum mechanics. Baker and Halvorson conjecture that the deeper explanation of quantum statistics offered by the field-theoretic treatment of so-called "superselection rules" will be equally illuminating when applied to the philosophical controversies surrounding identical particles. One such controversy concerns the fate of Leibniz's venerable claim that a principle of the "identity of indiscernibles" requires that no two distinct objects can share all the same qualities.