Bryan W. Roberts

LSE Philosophy, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK
b.w.roberts@lse.ac.uk / +44-207-107-5484
Office: Lakatos Building (LAK) 5.03
Curriculum Vitae / @SoulPhysics twitter

Bryan Roberts

I'm an Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics. My research is on the philosophy of physics and its mathematical foundations. Here you can see some photos of life at LSE, or a video of me talking about time travel, or me in a panel discussion on Radio 4's Moral Maze discussing whether science is morally neutral, or a podcast on philosophy of mathematics. Here is my Boring Official Bio and my Curriculum Vitae.

Philosophico-Scientific Adventures eBook

Philosophico-Scientific Adventures. Read Now I have a free online textbook introducing the philosophy of science. It's under continual development; feel free to contact me with suggestions.

The Atlantic

Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence. Read Now My Atlantic article with Google software engineer Zach Musgrave on the special nature of weapons built with Artificial Intelligence.

Research

Click a topic to filter. You can see a complete list of publications on my CV.

Forth. Erkenntnis

Curie's Hazard: From electromagnetism to symmetry violation

Curie's principle only works in special cases, but is still useful in particle physics.

2015 SHPMP

Reply to Ashtekar: Generalisation of Wigner's principle

A general perspective on the dipole approach to time asymmetry.

2015 SHPMP

Three merry roads to T-violation

How it's possible to detect an arrow of time in particle physics.

2014 SHPMP

A general perspective on time observables

Time is not an ordinary quantum observable. But it is in extensions of the standard model.

2013 Philosophy of Science

When we do (and do not) have a classical arrow of time

Classical physics is not necessarily time-symmetric. But with some symmetry constraints it is.

2013 Philosophy of Science

The simple failure of Curie's principle

Pierre Curie and many commentators after him have said causes and effects must have the same symmetries. They're wrong.

2012 Physical Review A

Kramers degeneracy without eigenvectors

Generalisation of a theorem by Kramers and Wigner showing how time symmetry is connected to energy.

2012 Centaurus

The Scaling of Speeds and Distances in Galileo's Two New Sciences: A reply to Palmerino and Laird.

(with John D. Norton) Our reply to critics.

2012 Centaurus

Galileo's refutation of the speed-distance law of fall rehabilitated

(with John D. Norton) A famously mysterious passage by Galileo is actually correct and powerful physics.

2011 Synthese

How Galileo dropped the ball and Fermat picked it up

Fermat managed to reconstruct Galileo's confusing refutation of an Aristotelian law of freefall.

2011 BJPS

Group Structural Realism

Some think symmetry is what's fundamental about reality. Here is what that might mean, and why it is problematic.

2006-2012 Pittsburgh ETD

Time symmetry and structure: A study in the foundations of quantum theory

My dissertation at the University of Pittsburgh under John Earman and John D. Norton.

Manuscripts

Here are some recent works in progress.

Disregarding the 'Hole Argument' - On an interesting recent objection to the Hole Argument by Jim Weatherall.

Three myths about time reversal in quantum theory - Where time reversal gets its unusual meaning.

Does quantum time have a preferred direction? - A link between particle ontology and the direction of time.

Teaching

Courses at LSE

PH103: Reason, Knowledge and Values: A science-oriented introduction to philosophy. Course Website
PH201/400 Philosophy of Science. How does science work? When does something come to be called a science? Why is it so effective? What are the basic concepts, and what are their philosophical implications? This course is a cheerful, surprising, and deep journey into the philosophical foundations of science. Course Website
PH227/427 Genes, Brains and Society: Philosophical issues in the biomedical sciences. Course Website
space PH230/PH430 Einstein for Everyone: From time travel to the edge of the universe. PH230 Course Guide PH430 Course Guide Course Overview
cityPH232/PH431 Physics and the City: From Quantum Jumps to Stock Market Crashes. PH232 Course Guide PH431 Course Guide Course Overview

My Writing Guides

7 Steps to a Better Philosophy Paper: 3 pages, 7 steps, 10 tips to help you write better philosophy.

Writing an MSc Dissertation: Guide for MSc students on writing an MSc dissertation.

Courses at Other Schools

Methodologies of the Sciences (USC Phil-486). Website / Syllabus.
Intro to Bioethics (Pitt HPS 0613). Website / Syllabus.
Principles of Scientific Reasoning (Pitt HPS 0611). Website / Syllabus.

Activities

Academic

BSPS I am currently serving as on the governing committee of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science.

PhilSci-Archive I am a board member and Conference and Volumes coordinator for PhilSci-Archive. If you're a philosopher of science that doesn't use PhilSci-Archive, stop what you're doing and go sign up. PhilSci-Archive is the official online preprint server of the Philosophy of Science Association. Visit us at philsci-archive.pitt.edu.

USC Logic Web I was a javascript programmer and remain part of the design committee for USC Logic Web, a free online resource that introduces students to the basics of symbolic logic. USC Logic Web is available to the public in preliminary form at dornsife.usc.edu/USCLogicWeb.

Other

Forum for European PhilosophyI am a former organiser and regular participant in the Forum of European Philosophy. The forum is an educational charity, which brings lively public dialogues, panel discussions, and lectures to the people of London. No stuffy academic dribble allowed! Visit the forum website for a schedule and podcast of recent events.

twitter @Soulphysics is how you can find me ranting about philosophy of physics. I use the Soul Physics Blog on occasion for more extented rants.

I grew up on the West Coast of the United States and like paint brushes and musical instruments. I'm a sport skydiver. I climb at The Arch climbing wall. My wife Alma Roberts works at WWF-UK. We have a black cat named Wendy Lou and a black and white one named Lady Crumpet.

Tools

Web

Website. The site is written in simple html/css/javascript, using bootstrap for mobile responsiveness and isotope for the research-sorting. Feel free to borrow or steal. If you come up with a variation or improvement, I'd love to see.
Teach with online problem sets. For all the controversy about the Khan Academy, the online problem set framework they developed is uncontroversially fantastic. Incredibly, it's also open source. This is a huge untapped resource for universities. You can download the essential components at Github, where there is also a decent documentation wiki. Familiarity with javascript is required.
LSE Journal Access Bookmarklet. I made a handy javascript bookmarklet for LSE folks to access journals off-campus. Easily modified for other schools.
ladybug

Productivity

Emacs Zen: I write everything in emacs. You can see my setup on github.
Dirt Simple ToDo List: My work flow, explained as a screencast by me in 2010. I still do basically the same thing.
Handling academic citations. If you use something a lot, you may as well make it easier on yourself: screencast from 2009. Know a better way? Tell me!
Be more efficient. The Pomodoro Technique is hands-down the most important trick I used to complete my dissertation on time in grad school, and I still use it regularly. There are lots of free timer apps online.
Give better talks. Giving an academic talk? Read Paul Edwards' How to Give an Academic Talk, but also watch this video on how to give great talks in any context. Giving a talk on a technical subject? Check out this excellent advice from Bob Geroch and from David Tong.