Foundational Problems of Black Holes and Gravitational Radiation
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Foundational Problems of Black Holes and Gravitational Radiation
20 - 21 October 2018

Idea and Motivation

The attempt to understand black holes, gravitational radiation, and the relations between them occupies a central role in the foundations of physics. The physics of black holes points to profound connections among general relativity, quantum field theory, and thermodynamics, with potentially revolutionary consequences for our understanding of the nature of spacetime itself. Gravitational radiation is a deep and fascinating astrophysical phenomenon, and one which raises profound questions for the metaphysics and epistemology of spacetime. The two topics go naturally together, both because of the stunning recent successes in gravitational-wave detection, which confirmed the existence of coalescing black hole systems, and because gravitational radiation is expected to generically accompany all non-trivial black hole phenomena. There are numerous philosophical questions raised by black holes and gravitational radiation, which have only recently started to attract the attention of philosophers.

By bringing together top researchers from the diverse fields of physics, philosophy, history, and sociology, we seek to create an atmosphere in which major advances in understanding can be made by the cross-pollination that discussion across traditional disciplinary boundaries can create. We aim to engender collaboration and interaction among philosophers and scientists so that insights from different disciplines may be shared and inspire workers in all relevant fields to find new approaches to both discipline-specific and interdisciplinary problems. Specific questions we hope the conference will address include (but are not limited to):

  1. the nature of black holes as thermodynamical objects
  2. the character of Hawking radiation and black hole entropy
  3. the definition of gravitational radiation and its relation to the ontology of spacetime
  4. the status of the Generalized Second Law as a physical principle
  5. the Information Loss Paradox, and what it may tell us about the nature of quantum mechanics and spacetime
  6. the epistemic status of analogue gravity and ''desktop'' physical models of black holes
  7. the nature of spacetime itself
  8. the related problems of cosmic censorship, determinism and predictability in general relativity
  9. epistemic problems for the detection of black holes by gravitational radiation, and the status of the associated theoretical models
  10. the epistemology and sociology of gravitational radiation detection as ''big science''
  11. the search for a theory of quantum gravity