Funding Opportunity: Interdisciplinary Visitor Grants
The first round of applications is being accepted between Sept. 15, 2018 and Dec. 1, 2018 for stays to start in 2019. Any changes to these dates will be posted on this web page.
Theologians, philosophers, and experts from fields other than physics rarely if ever have a serious and sustained professional interaction with physicists, especially experimental physicists. It is also true that physicists in the lab typically carry on without seriously reflecting on the philosophical and theological context and implications of their work. Conscious of its focus upon physics experimentation, the Center for Fundamental Physics (CFP) encourages interdisciplinary activities that reflect upon, illuminate, and reveal the assumptions, implications, and methods of fundamental physics. To this end, the CFP is offering a grant to support a CFP Interdisciplinary fellow who is not a practicing natural scientist to spend up to a year at the center. We are grateful to the Templeton Foundation for providing the resources.
Ideally a CFP Interdisciplinary Fellow will have research objectives that relate in a meaningful way with those of the CFP. The following questions are of particular interest to the CFP:
- Are the fundamental constants of nature constant in time? Fundamental constants are quantities (like the fine structure constant) that must be input to a mathematical description of physical reality. They can be measured but not calculated.
- Do the basic interactions of physics transform under the certain combination of three fundamental symmetries as assumed in the standard model description? What are the limits?
- What is dark matter? The motions of galaxies can be explained by postulating that galaxies contain dark matter that is present but does not reflect enough light to make it visible. So far no one has been able to observe or identify particles making up dark matter, or to demonstrate any other explanation for the observed motions.
- Do the most precise predictions of the standard model description agree with what can be measured to high precision?
- Since gravity does not fit very well in the standard model description, does gravity behave as Newton and Einstein predicted—even on very short-distance scales? Can evidence be found to show whether gravity is quantum mechanical?
We expect that applicants’ proposed research topics will vary widely, but they must engage in some meaningful way with the essential questions addressed by small-scale fundamental physics (listed above). Or, the topics must be fundamental questions from other disciplines that might be illuminated by observing the procedures and working assumptions of experimental physicists. The following might be illustrative examples of appropriate research topics.
- Topics with direct bearing on the essential questions of fundamental physics (discussed above) are appropriate.
- Fundamental physics seeks to answer the question as to whether the fundamental constants change in time. Fundamental constants are critical to a mathematical description of physical reality but analogs seem largely missing in other disciplines. Why? A philosopher wishing to study the ontological status of fundamental constants would be of great interest. Are there contradictory implications in assuming that something fundamental changes? The epistemology of recognizing fundamental constants is also of interest. A historian could deal with how paradigms in the perceptions of fundamental constants are changed and eventually embraced by the experimental physics community.
- Fundamental physics seeks to answer the question as to whether the basic interaction of the building blocks of physical reality are symmetric under certain combinations of three discrete symmetries. What is the ontological status of a physical symmetry? Is the symmetry primary or is the mathematical description that manifests the symmetry? Violated symmetries are as striking and prominent in physics as are symmetries that seem to be perfectly enforced in physical reality. What are the implications?
- The standard model of particle physics is tested more stringently within the CFP than in any other laboratory. This is a prototype example of a mathematical description being made to confront physical reality. What is the ontological status of models of the interaction of mathematical description and laboratory tests represent the prototype example? How do models and paradigms shift, and what are the pitfalls to be avoided?
- Topics related to the working assumptions and the scientific methods of experimental physicists are of interest. How important and appropriate is a humble spirit of openness about what and how we learn about reality? For example, field theory is the mathematical framework used to describe the fundamental particles, their interactions and their symmetries. Remarkably, effective field theories can be formed to describe different size and energy scales, forcing us to be somewhat humble about our ability to provide a theory of everything. There has been a great deal of philosophical attention paid to field theory, its implications and its limits. Most of it seems so abstract that physicists typically pay little attention. Can philosophical insight into field theory be made useful for the physicists who use and test field theory and the standard model?
- How limiting is the philosophical ignorance that working physicists typically have about the most basic ontological and epistemological issues?
Applications must include:
- A complete CV.
- The proposed dates that the scholar will spend at the CFP.
- A project description of up to 10 pages that includes proposed scholarly work products that will acknowledge the CFP fellowship. Projects and work products of interest to physicists will be of highest interest.
- The names and credentials of five authorities in the candidate’s field of scholarship who are qualified to provide a letter of reference for the candidate and evaluate the proposal.
- Financial requirements for the proposed stay.
Proposals for longer stays should also include:
- Long-term CFP fellows commit to producing high quality videos that will be available on the CFP website. A preliminary description of the envisioned videos must be part of the application.
- Each video should be comprehensible to physics graduate students. The videos must inform and persuade physicists about the relevance of some aspect of the scholar’s field of study.
- One-year fellows will produce two hours of video content, while all visitors will produce at least one hour of video content.
- Videos of traditional lectures are one possibility, but equivalent content in a collection of shorter media presentations is preferred.
- Fellows will present the content of their videos to physicists and other interested scholars in a seminar arranged by the CFP during their stay.
- If salary is requested, current salary and available support from the home institution must be documented and should be provided to the CFP director in a confidential letter delivered with the application.
To submit your application, click here.