Prospects for a new account of time reversal

Citation data:

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, ISSN: 1355-2198, Vol: 49, Page: 42-56

Publication Year:
2015
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/11302
DOI:
10.1016/j.shpsb.2015.01.001
Author(s):
Peterson, Daniel
Publisher(s):
Elsevier BV
Tags:
Arts and Humanities, Physics and Astronomy
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article description
In this paper I draw the distinction between intuitive and theory-relative accounts of the time reversal symmetry and identify problems with each. I then propose an alternative to these two types of accounts that steers a middle course between them and minimizes each account׳s problems. This new account of time reversal requires that, when dealing with sets of physical theories that satisfy certain constraints, we determine all of the discrete symmetries of the physical laws we are interested in and look for involutions that leave spatial coordinates unaffected and that act consistently across our physical laws. This new account of time reversal has the interesting feature that it makes the nature of the time reversal symmetry an empirical feature of the world without requiring us to assume that any particular physical theory is time reversal invariant from the start. Finally, I provide an analysis of several toy cases that reveals differences between my new account of time reversal and its competitors.

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