RGBlum_alexander_blum_portrait

©Amac Garbe/MPG.

People

Alexander Blum

Research Group Leader (Nov 2017-Jan 2023)

PhD

Alexander has a PhD in theoretical particle physics from the University of Heidelberg (research at the MPI for Nuclear Physics, 2009). In 2010 he moved into the History of Science, and to the MPIWG, where he started out as a member of the Quantum History Project (until 2012). Since then he has been a Research Scholar at the MPIWG and coordinated the cooperative project with the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting Foundation from 2013–2014. He is closely associated with the Research Program on the History of the Max Planck Society (GMPG). Alexander has organized several smaller workshops at the MPIWG (and externally) bringing together physicists, historians, and philosophers to discuss the history and foundations of quantum gravity. He also co-organized the large conference at MPIWG/Harnack-Haus celebrating the centenary of general relativity (2015).

Alexander’s research interests lie in the history (and philosophy) of modern physics, lately with a strong emphasis on the postwar period. His current MPIWG research projects focus on the postwar developments of the two great revolutionary theories of the early twentieth century, general relativity, and quantum mechanics, with a special focus on attempts to combine the two. He is also currently completing (together with Dean Rickles of the University of Sydney) a commented sourcebook on the earliest attempts to bring together quantum theory and general relativity, which will be published in 2018. In 2017, he will begin teaching at the physics department of the FU Berlin, pursuing a novel approach of teaching advanced (Master’s level) physics classes with a strong focus on historical theory development.

Projects

History and Foundations of Quantum Field Theory

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The Renaissance of General Relativity in the Post-World War II Period

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Selected Publications

Blum, A. S., Lalli, R., & Renn, J. (2018). Gravitational waves and the long relativity revolution. Nature Astronomy, 2(7), 534-543. doi:10.1038/s41550-018-0472-6.

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Blum, A. S., & Rickles, D. (2018). Quantum gravity in the first half of the twentieth century: a sourcebook. Berlin: Edition Open Access.

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Blum, A. S., & Salisbury, D. C. (2018). The genesis of canonical quantum gravity. In A. S. Blum, & D. Rickles (Eds.), Quantum gravity in the first half of the twentieth century: a sourcebook (pp. 455-464). Berlin: Edition Open Access.

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Blum, A. S. (2018). Where to start? First interactions between wave mechanics and general relativity. In A. S. Blum, & D. Rickles (Eds.), Quantum gravity in the first half of the twentieth century: a sourcebook (pp. 49-56). Berlin: Edition Open…

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Bookshelf

Digital Media & Feature Stories

Events

Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

The state is not abolished, it withers away

HQ-4. Fourth Conference on the History of Quantum Physics at the Donostia International Physics Center, San Sebastián/Donostia

Dynamics of Umdeutung: From the Kronig Letter to Matrix Mechanics

HQ-4. Fourth Conference on the History of Quantum Physics at the Donostia International Physics Center, San Sebastián/Donostia (with Martin Jähnert, Christoph Lehner, and Jürgen Renn)

The Schism - The Origins of Canonical and Covariant Quantum Gravity

"Space-Time Theories: Historical and Philosophical Contexts" at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

"Auf den ersten Blick könnte man meinen, das Auftreten solcher Unendlichkeiten mache die Theorie unbrauchbar..." – Argumentationsstrategien im Umgang mit Unendlichkeiten in der Quantenfeldtheorie (1930–1950)

"Argumente und Rhetorik in der Physik" hosted by the Erlanger Zentrum für Literatur und Naturwissenschaft

A Silver Lining among Infinities: How the Spin-Statistics Theorem Restored Faith in Quantum Field Theory

"Foundations of Physics Conference" at LMU Munich

History of Functional Methods in Quantum Field Theory

Seven Pines Symposium XVIII

The Moving Frontier: How Quantum Gravity became the Great Unsolved Problem of Modern Physics

"Quantum Gravity in Perspective" at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy

Quantum Field Theory in the 1940s and 50s

Seven Pines Symposium XVII

The Density Matrix The Story of a Failed Transfer

DPG Spring Conference, Jena

A Brief History of Quantum Gravity

Utrecht University

Solving European Problems in the US: The Infrared Divergence

5th ESHS Conference, Athens

Feynman in Jabłonna: Quantum Theory of Gravitation

General Relativity and Gravitation – 50 years after Jabłonna, Warsaw

The limits of correspondence: How the methods of quantum mechanics proved insufficient in electrodynamics (1925-1932)

New Directions in the Foundations of Physics, Washington, DC (with Christoph Lehner)

At the Crossroads: Einstein and Prague

Universities in Central Europe, Prague (with Dieter Hoffmann and Jürgen Renn)

Vacuum Polarization - A Case Study of an Infinite Quantity in Early Quantum Field Theory

American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD

Seminar on Sources in the Development of Quantum Mechanics at FU Berlin Physics Department (with Christoph Lehner)
Several Tutorials on Experimental Physics (Atomic, Nuclear, Particle, Environmental Physics, Optics, Quantum Mechanics) at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg