17 November 2018, 3pm, LPS seminar room

David Wallace (USC), “The Necessity of Statistical Mechanics”

In discussions of the foundations of statistical mechanics, it is widely held that (a) the Gibbsian and Boltzmannian approaches are incompatible but empirically equivalent; (b) the Gibbsian approach may be calculationally preferable but only the Boltzmannian approach is conceptually satisfactory. I argue against both assumptions. Gibbsian statistical mechanics is applicable to a wide variety of problems and systems, such as the calculation of transport coefficients and the statistical mechanics and thermodynamics of mesoscopic systems, in which the Boltzmannian approach is inapplicable. And the supposed conceptual problems with the Gibbsian approach are either misconceived, or apply only to certain versions of the Gibbsian approach, or apply with equal force to both approaches. I conclude that Boltzmannian statistical mechanics is best seen as a special case of, and not an alternative to, Gibbsian statistical mechanics.

Please read David’s pre-print before the meeting.

6 October 2018, 3pm, LPS seminar room

Chip Sebens (Caltech), “The Mass of the Gravitational Field”

By mass-energy equivalence, the gravitational field has a relativistic mass density proportional to its energy density. I seek to better understand this mass of the gravitational field by asking whether it plays three traditional roles of mass: the role in conservation of mass, the inertial role, and the role as source for gravitation. The difficult case of general relativity is compared to the more straightforward cases of Newtonian gravity and electromagnetism by way of gravitoelectromagnetism, a special relativistic theory of gravity which resembles electromagnetism.