Antigone M. Nounou
University of Minnesota, USA
Is the Gauge Principle physically vacuous?
Seeking inspiration in General Covariance.
Antigone teaches at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, and yet whenever she is asked “Where do you come from?” she insists on saying “But, from Greece!” implying “With such a name and such an accent, where else could I possibly come from?” Her response insinuates a certain home(Europe)sickness, which is probably unjustifiable: she suffered from the weather in London (where she did her graduate studies) and she hardly made it as a professional philosopher of science in Greece (where she spent a couple of years after grad school and before moving to Minnesota). But then again, doing philosophy of science and philosophy of physics means that one spends a lot of time trying hard to rationally justify manifestly unjustifiable things, or not?
She got profoundly interested in gauge theories and started asking the questions that inform her current research while still a physics undergrad. But later, in graduate school she realized she was not a physicist after all and swapped to philosophy of physics: she wanted to probe and understand the role covariant derivatives and gauge potentials play not only in quantum field theories but also in their representations of the world, she did not want to just learn how to use them.
While visiting the Center she hopes to manage two things. She hopes to come up with something sensible to say about the gauge principle. It is a bit strange, she thinks, that while gauge theories, along with that principle, have worked miracles in physics, in philosophy we have only managed to say that the principle is probably physically vacuous. She also hopes to get as fit as she used to be before she moved to the US –are all the people who live and work in this country overworked or just the tenure-track academics?