Physics Interest Group

Meeting time: Friday afternoons (about every other week—see the calendar below), 1:30–3:00 pm Central time 
Meeting place: online via Zoom

The physics interest group (PIG) reads and discusses works of mutual interest in the history and philosophy of physics. We select readings for a variety of reasons: to keep up on the most exciting developments in the field, to help participants scrutinize literature relevant to their research projects (faculty or graduate student research), to provide feedback on works in progress being written by participants (graduate students, faculty, and Center visitors), to revisit classic articles in the literature, and sometimes just to have fun discussing a topic related to physics. For more information please contact Jos Uffink ( or Samuel Fletcher (

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Fall 2022

Please join our mailing list for the zoom invitation or email

In recognition of Jos Uffink's retirement from the University of Minnesota at the end of this semester, PIG will be reading a selection of his papers; an opportunity to hear about the work "from the horse's mouth".

  • September 16: The uncertainty principle
    Main Reading: Hilgevoord, J. and Uffink, J.B.M. (1990) "A new view on  the uncertainty principle" in Sixty-Two Years of Uncertainty ed. A.I. Miller New York: Plenum, pp. 121-137. (pdf)
    Supplementary reading: Uffink, J.B.M. and Hilgevoord, J. (1985) "Uncertainty principle and uncertainty relations" Foundations of Physics, 15(9)925-944. (pdf)
    Uffink, J.B.M. and Hilgevoord, J. (1991) "Uncertainty in prediction and inference" Foundations of Physics, 21(3)323-341. (pdf)
  • September 30: The maximum entropy principle
    Main reading: Uffink, J.B.M. (1995) "Can the maximum entropy principle be explained as a consistency requirement?" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 26 (3):223-261. (pdf)
    Complementary reading: Uffink, J.B.M. (1996) "The constraint rule of the maximum entropy principle" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 27 (1):47-79. (pdf)
  • October 14: The second law of thermodynamics
    Uffink, J.B.M. (2001) "Bluff your way in the second law of thermodynamics" Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (3):305-394. (pdf) This paper is long. Jos's advice is to read the first 6 sections, and the conclusion. Those of you who are interested in history of science might of course also browse through the sections on Planck, Gibbs and Ehrenfest-Afanansssjewa. Those of you interested in formal methods might want to look at the section on Lieb and Yngvason as well. 
  • October 28: Statistical Physics Compendium
    Uffink, J.B. (2006) Compendium of the foundations of classical statistical physics  in Handbook for Philosophy of Physics, J. Butterfield and J. Earman (eds) (Elsevier: North Holland) (pdf)
    This is far too long for anyone to read in its entirety.  The heart of the paper is surely in section  4 on Boltzmann  (p 33 -72) in the pitt archive version. That is still a long piece, and I think the section 4.1 on the ergodic hypothesis can be skipped  without too much loss.
    So let's all try to read 4.2 - 4.5,  i.e. 30 pages.  
  • November 18: Lanford's theorem
    Uffink, J.B.and Valente, G. (2015) Lanford’s Theorem and the Emergence of Irreversibility. Found Phys 45:404–438. DOI 10.1007/s10701-015-9871-z (pdf)
  • December 9: Boyd, N.M. (2018) Evidence Enriched. Philosophy of Science, 85: 403–421. (pdf)
    Nora Boyd (Philosophy, Siena College) will be visiting

Previous PIG topics