I am Eugene Chua, a philosopher of physics and science.
I completed my undergraduate studies with double first-class honours in philosophy at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, where I was trained in most areas of analytic philosophy.
I then spent some time at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy as a Masters student, before obtaining my PhD at UCSD with my dissertation, "Classical Thermodynamics beyond the Classical Domain" (under the auspices of Craig Callender, Eddy Keming Chen, and Kerry McKenzie).
I will be a postdoc at Caltech for 2023-2024, and then an assistant professor in philosophy at NTU where I will be working with a $1m SGD grant under the Nanyang Assistant Professorship scheme. For what it's worth, my Erdös number is 5.
When I am not doing philosophy, I can be found playing Magic: the Gathering, video games and board games, or skateboarding.
My Research Interests At A Glance...
Science is often held as a paradigm of knowledge, and I believe it is a task of philosophy to subject it to the highest scrutiny. In this vein, my primary interests center on the philosophy of science, with particular interests in the history and philosophy of thermodynamics, and philosophy of physics more generally.
I am especially interested in how thermodynamic concepts - such as equilibrium, temperature, and entropy - get extended past their original domain of applicability, and whether justifications from the original domain are transferrable to these new domains. I have papers on the relationship between von Neumann entropy and thermodynamic entropy ("Does Von Neumann Entropy Correspond to Thermodynamic Entropy?"), information entropy and thermodynamic entropy ("Degeneration and Entropy"), and classical and relativistic temperature ("T Falls Apart: On the Status of Classical Temperature in Relativity"). I have plans to work on other topics, including the relationship between classical and relativistic concepts of thermodynamic equilibrium, heat and work, and entropy. A work-in-progress, "Putting Pressure under Pressure: On the Status of Classical Pressure in Relativity", examines the relationship between classical and relativistic pressure. With Craig Callender, I am also currently studying how the concept of temperature is again extended in the general relativistic setting due to the Tolman-Ehrenfest effect. On the quantum side of things, with Eddy Keming Chen, I am working out how one promising metaphysical stance -- density matrix realism -- towards quantum thermodynamics might lead us to revise our notions of inter-theoretic relations between statistical and fundamental physics.
My work on density matrix realism with Eddy Chen has also led me to work on other topics in the foundations of quantum mechanics, such as the problem of probability for the Everettian ('many-worlds') interpretation of quantum mechanics ("Decoherence, Branching, and the Born Rule for a Mixed-State Everettian Multiverse"). We also intend to study whether density matrix realism might lead to a revision of the Pusey-Barrett-Rudolph (PBR) theorem for the foundations of quantum mechanics. With Chip Sebens from Caltech, I am also studying the locality of quantum field theory, and the sense in which global branching in the Everettian picture is compatible with the fundamental locality of quantum theory.
I am also interested in the problem of time in quantum gravity, and various proposals for resolving it. I am generally of the view that proposals which claim that time "emerges" from timeless settings don't succeed and typically sneak time in somewhere, somehow. I have a work in progress ("The Time in Thermal Time") and a paper with Craig Callender on this topic if you are interested! ("No Time for Time from No-Time")
Recently, I became interested in studying the justifications behind the use of idealizations in physics, and science more generally. A work in progress ruminates on one idealization commonly used in the context of black hole physics. ("Quasi-Stationarity: The Impossible Process") A follow-up paper on another idealization often used in black hole physics, "Justifying Asymptotic Flatness", is in preparation at the moment. In the medium term, I am also working on a general account of idealization and de-idealization with Western Ontario PhD student Yichen Luo.
I also have interests in machine learning and data ethics. With data scientists, as PhD fellow at the Institute of Practical Ethics at UC San Diego, I worked on a foundational problem with a popular explainability algorithm, LIME, having to do with its naïve sampling strategy. This enables possible adversarial attacks on LIME, which our proposal avoids with very high rates of success. ("Improving LIME Robustness with Smarter Locality Sampling") Right now, I am also working on applying and extending Norton’s material theory of induction to ML algorithms: I develop an ‘materialist’ evaluative lens for licensing inductive inferences using ML. I propose the evaluation of both epistemic warrants (per Norton) and also normative warrants, arguing that both go beyond the scope of explainability algorithms. ("The Myth of Formal Induction”) I recently spent some time in the summer of 2023 as part of the inaugural cohort of the the excellent NSF-funded AI and Data Ethics Summer Training Program at Northeastern. Together with Harman Brah from UC San Diego Medicine and UCSD PhD student Bosco Garcia, my recent project in applied AI ethics, "Navigating the Ethical Frontiers in LLM-powered Psychiatry", examines the ethical space when it comes to the application of LLMs into psychiatric care.
I work a little on formal epistemology and logic on the side. A paper I worked on as an undergraduate studies whether the underdetermination of quantum interpretations by evidence might have upshots for the 'true' logic of the world from an empiricist perspective. ("An Empirical Route to Logical ‘Conventionalism’")