Justine Lambert Prize
The Justine Lambert Prize is awarded by LPS every other year to the best paper submitted by a graduate student dealing with "foundational issues in the formal, natural or social sciences, using tools, methods and results from scientific practice to cast light on the conceptual, philosophical, and scientific relevance of those issues". The Lambert Prize competition is open to all graduate students at the University of California, Irvine, regardless of department or school affiliation. (Click here for the 2013 flier.)
The Lambert Prize was made possible by a generous bequest from the sons and friends of Justine Lambert.
Past winners of the Prize are the following. (The pattern of awarding the Prize in alternating years was first established in 2005.)
The 2013 Lambert Prize was split between two outstanding entries:
Benjamin Feintzeig (LPS) for his "Hidden Variables and Commutativity in Quantum Mechanics"
Cailin O'Connor (LPS) for her paper "The Evolution of Vagueness"
2010: Jim Weatherall (LPS) for his paper "The Motion of a Body in Newtonian Theories"
Weatherall's paper is the first to prove that classical physics can be used to explain the fundamental concept of inertial motion - the idea that an object in motion will keep moving unless something gets in its way. Previously, inertial motion had only been provable using the theory of general relativity. “General relativity provided an explanation of this phenomenon – the nature of inertial motion, why things continue to move the way they do when there's nothing making them move - that classical physics had to simply assume was true,” says Weatherall. His paper, which is currently under consideration for publication in a top mathematical physics journal, proves that classical physics can explain inertial motion, too.
The 2009 Lambert Prize was split between two outstanding entries:
John Manchak (LPS) for his paper "Can we know the global structure of spacetime?"
Manchak's paper examines some epistemological issues arising within the context of the general theory of relativity. This paper picks up issues not fully resolved in work from the 1970s by Clark Glymour and David Malament. The paper's striking conclusion is that it follows from the general theory of relativity itself that we can know very little about the global structure of spacetime. Particularly noteworthy is that the argument for this conclusion grants the unverifiable assumption that physical laws operative in our local spacetime apply throughout all of spacetime. In addition to its contribution within the philosophy of physics, the paper also bears on more general concerns in the philosophy of science regarding the underdetermination of theories.
Elliott Wagner (LPS) for his paper "Communication and Structured Correlation"
Wagner's paper uses Lewis sender-receiver games to study the evolution of communication. In particular, the paper explores some differences between models that presume an infinitely large and randomly mixed population and more realistic models in which a finite number of agents communicate with their neighbors in a social network. Wagner shows that interaction with neighbors in a social network is more conducive to the emergence of perfect communication than the replicator dynamic that is commonly paired with the assumption of an infinitely large, well-mixed population of agents interacting at random. The paper also includes a detailed examination of a wide class of network topologies and concludes that the behavior of the system is highly sensitive to the structure of the network. A specific class of networks – small world graphs – is shown to be especially conducive to the evolution of communication. Importantly, many actual social networks are conjectured to be small world structures.
2007: Rory Smead (LPS) for his paper "The Evolution of Cooperation in the Centipede Game with Finite Population."
Smead's paper addresses the issue of how cooperation displayed by subjects in the Centipede game can be reconciled with the predictions of traditional game theory, according to which a rational agent will always play the backward induction solution of the game, which allows for no cooperative behavior. The subjects' cooperative behavior cannot even be explained on the standard, infinite-population evolutionary approach. Smead proposes instead to use a finite-population evolutionary approach that provides an explanation of cooperation that is not available to the standard models. As a further theoretical fall-out, Smead's paper casts further light on the proper use of otherwise helpful idealizations in scientific practice.
2005: Kevin Zollman (LPS) for his paper "Talking to Neighbors: The Evolution of Regional Meaning."
Zollman's paper analyzes the effect of adding communication and social structure to previous models of the evolution of cooperation. Following previous work by Skyrms and Alexander, he analyzes a variant of the Stag Hunt and Lewis Signaling game using a two-dimensional spatial structure. He determines that these two additions, when used in tandem, result both in an increase in cooperation and an explanation for persistent diversity in conventional behavior (like language).
2002: Christopher Doble (Mathematical Behavioral Sciences) for his paper "On Invariance Properties of Empirical Laws."
In his paper, Doble investigates issues connected with the invariance of scientific laws under certain transformations, such as, typically, different representations of the variables. Generalizing previous work of J-C. Falmagne and L. Narens, Doble specifies conditions sufficient for alternative interpretations of this notion of invariance to be equivalent.