Michael E. Miller

University of Pittsburgh

1017 Cathedral of Learning

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

michael.miller@pitt.edu / 414.429.1857

I am a Ph. D. Candidate in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. My research addresses the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of science. I am also interested in the history of physics and I have a background in particle physics which informs my current research. Before coming to Pittsburgh I completed a B.A. in Physics and Philosophy at the University of Chicago and a M.A. in the Foundations of Physics at Columbia University.


renormalon My research is focused on reconceptualizing how mathematics functions as a language for describing empirical phenomena. I look to apparent mathematical deficiencies of scientific theories and construe them as hints about how the theory represents the world. Rather than obstacles to interpretation, the breakdowns of mathematical consistency that arise in the course of scientific theorizing often are the best sources of information about how mathematical structures capture physical meaning. Recognizing this motivates important modifications to standard accounts of the ontological committments warranted by a theory's empirical success.


In my dissertation I address these themes in the context of quantum field theory. I argue that the relationship between perturbative and axiomatic formulations of quantum field theory strains traditional accounts of the role that mathematical structures play in the attribution of physical content to the structure of a theory. I have developed an account of semantics for physical theories that makes it possible to interpret the empirically adequate models of the theory. Work from this project was awarded the 2015 Robert K. Clifton Memorial Prize.


Mathematical structure and empirical content. Preprint

On the common structure of perturbative and axiomatic field theory for Borel summable models.

Why are there ultraviolet divergences at all?

Exact models and ambiguous structure specification.

Particle interpretations and the infrared problem.

Review of Jonathan Bain's ``CPT Invariance and the Spin-Statistics Connection,'' Metascience.


Haag's theorem, apparent inconsistency, and the empirical adequacy of quantum field theory (forthcoming in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science). Preprint / Journal.

The origins of Schwinger's Euclidean Green's functions, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics (2015) 50:5-12. Preprint / Journal.

Readiness of the ATLAS Tile Calorimeter for LHC Collisions, European Physics Journal C (2010) 70:1193-1236 (with the ATLAS Collaboration). Preprint / Journal.

Recent and Upcoming Talks

On the common structure of perturbative and axiomatic field theory for Borel summable models.

  • Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, Ryerson University (2017)

Is the Empirical Content of Quantum Field Theory Inexact?

  • University of Illinois at Chicago (2017)

Three Obstacles to the Interpretation of Quantum Field Theory

  • University of Toronto (2017)
  • California Institute of Technology (2017)
  • University of Illinois at Chicago (2017)

Why are there ultraviolet divergences at all?

  • Philosophy of Science Association Meeting, Atlanta (2016)

The Significance of Perturbative Finiteness

  • Space and Time After Quantum Gravity Summer Institute, Williams Bay (2016)

Invited Discussant, "Big questions: some fundamental problems in physics"

  • 20th annual Seven Pines Symposium, Stillwater (2016)

State-space Semantics for Divergent Perturbation Theory

  • Philosophy of Science Working Group, University of Michigan (2016)

Commentary on ``What Explains the Spin-Statistics Connection?'' (Jonathan Bain)

  • APA Pacific Division Meeting, San Francisco (2016)

Mathematical structure and the meaning of ``quantum field''

  • Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (2015)
  • Sigma Club, London School of Economics (2015)

Commentary on ``Is the Renormalization Group Explanation a Non-Causal Explanation?'' (Min Tang)

  • Society for the Metaphysics of Science, Rutgers (2015)

Exact models and physical semantics

  • British Society for Philosophy of Science Meeting, University of Manchester (2015)

The underdetermination of field theoretic structure

  • Logic, Math, and Physics Conference, University of Western Ontario (2015)
  • Irvine-Princeton-Pittsburgh Conference on the Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations of Physics, Princeton University (2015)
  • NY/NJ Philosophy of Science Group, Columbia University (2014)

Haag's theorem and successful applications of scattering theory.

  • Philosophy of Science Association Meeting, Chicago (2014)
  • Irvine-Princeton-Pittsburgh Conference on the Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations of Physics, UC Irvine (2014)

The origins of Schwinger's Euclidean Green's functions.

  • History of Science Society Meeting, Chicago (2014)

Current Course

Myth and Science (Pittsburgh HPS 0427/CLASS 0330). Instructor, Spring 2017.

Past Courses

Philosophy of 20th Century Physics (Pittsburgh HPS/PHIL 1612). Instructor, Fall 2016.

Philosophy of 20th Century Physics (Pittsburgh HPS/PHIL 1612). Instructor, Spring 2015.

Principles of Scientific Reasoning (Pittsburgh HPS 0611). Instructor, Fall 2014.

Einstein for Everyone (Pittsburgh HPS 0410). Assistant for John Norton, Spring 2013.

Introduction to Philosophy of Science (Pittsburgh HPS 1653). Assistant for Jim Woodward, Fall 2012.

Mathematical Logic (Columbia PHIL G4801). Assistant for Haim Gaifman, Fall 2011.

Electricity and Magnetism (Columbia PHYS 1202). Recitation instructor, Summer 2011.

General Physics Laboratory (Columbia PHYS W1291). Instructor, three sections mechanics, three sections electricity and magnetism, Fall 2010 - Fall 2011.


Conference Organization

Effective Lorentz Invariance Workshop (with Porter Williams). Pittsburgh, 2017. Stay tuned for details!

The Physics of Emergence (with Bob Batterman and Julia Bursten). Pittsburgh, February 2014.

Irvine-Princeton-Pittsburgh Conference on the Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations of Physics (with Hans Halvorson, Giovanni Valente, and Jim Weatherall). Pittsburgh, April 2013.


PhilSci-Archive I am serving my third term as the manager of Philsci-Archive, an online repository for preprints in the Philosophy of Science. I developed the archive's conference volume software which generates a digital conference volume from all of the preprints uploaded to a conference heading. If you are organizing a conference and you are interested in this service, please get in touch.

I attended the Summer Institute on the Philosophy of Quantum Gravity organized by Nick Huggett and Chris Wuthrich. Below is a brief talk I gave there on the significance of perturbative finiteness for the interpertation of quantum field theory and quantum theories of gravity.


I previously served as the representative of the HPS graduate students to the faculty, and as the manager of the Pitt HPS website.

I spend a lot of my time with a Rottweiler named Maxwell.