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Equivalence and Duality in Electromagnetism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

In this article I bring the recent philosophical literature on theoretical equivalence to bear on dualities in physics. Focusing on electromagnetic duality, which is a simple example of S-duality in string theory, I show that the duality fits naturally into at least one framework for assessing equivalence—that of categorical equivalence—but that it fails to meet a necessary condition for equivalence on that account. The reason is that the duality does not preserve “empirical content” in the required sense; instead, it takes models to models with “dual” empirical content. I conclude by discussing how one might react to this.

Type
Physical Sciences
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I am grateful to Seb de Haro, for organizing the session in which this article was presented, and to my cosymposiasts, Thomas Barrett, Seb de Haro, and Laurenz Hudetz, for a lively and interesting session. I am also grateful to Sean Carroll, Ben Feintzeig, Nick Huggett, and Sarita Rosenstock, for very helpful comments on the talk, and to Seb de Haro for detailed comments on a draft. This article was made possible in part through the support of grant 61048 from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

References

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