Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Indian Institute of Technology Ropar

HSS Seminar

What is the Problem of the Direction of Time?


Dr. Tarun Menon

October  13, 2017 (Friday) at 10:30 AM

Venue:  Lecture Hall-2


There is a consensus among physicists and philosophers that there is a deep puzzle regarding the "arrow of time", the fact that time seems to be directional. The puzzle purportedly stems from the fact that the fundamental laws of physics are (for the most part) invariant under time-reversal, yet the macroscopic world is full of temporally asymmetric phenomena, as described by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The problem is usually stated thus: "What grounds the Second Law, if not the fundamental laws of nature?".Attempts at solving the problem have mostly centered around the so-called "Past Hypothesis", the claim that the early Universe had a very low entropy. I argue that while there is an important problem regarding the directionality of time, it's exact nature has been misconceived, and as a consequence, people have been looking for solutions in the wrong places. Properly framed, the problem turns out to be about our agential perspective on the world, rather than the world as it is in itself. This means the solution will have to take account of our structure as agents and our relationship to physical systems. Focusing on the early universe is a red herring.


Brief Bio-sketch of the speaker 

Tarun Menon is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He studied physics at Amherst College and received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, San Diego. His work has focused on the philosophy of science and the philosophy of physics, particularly on philosophical issues having to do with probability, evidence, causation and emergence. His most recent published work (in the journal Philosophy of Science, July 2017) examined confirmation of theories using multiple independent lines of evidence. He is currently working on the relationship between scientific evidence and policy decision-making.