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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I am currently a third year PhD student at Pembroke College, Cambridge. My main area of interest is philosophy of physics and I am currently working in the philosophy of statistical mechanics. There are two deep conceptual issues in the foundations of statistical mechanics: the nature of probabilities and time-irreversibility. My project is concerned with this second issue.  The fundamental equations of physics are time-reversible, which means that the processes described by these equations can run backwards as well as forwards. If I were to film such a process, you would not be able to tell me if I were showing the film to you in rewind or not. Most processes we experience, however, are not like this.  You can easily distinguish whether a film of an egg smashing is in rewind or not. Yet ultimately the egg is described by the same fundamental physical laws. In my project I am interested in the nature and source of this time-asymmetry found in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, in particular whether it is `emergent’.

Before coming to Cambridge, I received the BPhil at Oxford (University College) and prior to that I completed my MSci in Physics and Philosophy at Bristol.  

Other academic interests

Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science (especially reduction and emergence), Philosophy of Social Science and Metaphysics. I am also interested in Philosophy for Children (P4C). 

Department: Philosophy
Supervisor: Dr. Jeremy Butterfield
College: Pembroke
AHRC Subject Area: Philosophy
Title of Thesis: Inter-theoretic relations in Thermodynamics and Statistical
 Katie  Robertson