Philosophy of Inflation Workshop

The UPAC research group and COSMO-MASTER project team are organising a half-day workshop around the Physical and Philosophical interpretations and implications of the Inflationary paradigm. We will convene physicists and philosophers to discuss the subfield's current state of the art and its prospects. The workshop will be held at Utrecht University on Friday the 24th of May 2024. We welcome researchers and students within either philosophy or physics to join the discussion as attendants. We will have three invited speakers to provide an overview of the state of the art on Inflation: Marieke Postma (Radboud University), Richard Dawid (Stockholm University) and Daniel Meerburg (University of Groningen).

Registration is closed for on-site attendance, but you can still register to participate online.

Maura Burke presenting at the Philosophy of Inflation workshop
Maura Burke presenting at the Philosophy of Inflation workshop


13:00 - 13:15

Presentation and overview of the Workshop

13:15 - 14:15

Marieke Postma (Radboud University)

Higgs in the sky

Inflation posits that the early universe went through a period of rapid expansion, which explains why our universe is so large, flat, and homogeneous. In addition, quantum fluctuations during inflation provide the seeds for all structure in our universe. Among all matter we know to exist, only the Higgs field can drive inflation. If true, the Higgs field not only gives mass to all elementary particles, but is also the source for everything in our universe. For this scenario to work, the Higgs should have non-standard coupling to gravity -- which has important implications.



14:15 - 15:15

Daniel Meerburg (University of Groningen)

Testing inflation

I will briefly review some of the conundrum inflation appears to solve. I will explain that while our current observations are consistent with inflation, they currently do not allow us to discriminate between different inflationary models. Primordial non-Gaussianities would provide such discriminating power. I will discuss our current limits on this illustrious signal, and explain how we hope to detect this signal with future measurements. I will show how machine learning could help us in this effort.


15:15 - 16:00

Coffee Break

16:00 - 16:30

Maura Burke (Utrecht University)

Metaphysics in an Infinite and Inflating Universe: Varying Constants




16:30 - 17:00

Alex Fleuren (Utrecht University)

Another critical look at inflationary cosmology



17:00 - 18:00

Richard Dawid (Stockholm University)

How testable is cosmic inflation?

Cosmic inflation is part of the standard view on cosmology. While specific models of inflation can be empirically tested, it has been argued that inflation as a general theory fails to be falsifiable (Ijjas, Steinhard and Loeb).  The question has been raised as to how such a failure would affect the status of inflation as a scientific theory. In the talk, I will discuss a Bayesian analysis of the issue and demonstrate in which way the concept of meta-empirical theory assessment can clarify the situation.


Joint work with Casey McCoy.



Dinner (optional) - Grand Café LIVING