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Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (2004) 345376

Summary: Studies in History and Philosophy of
Modern Physics 35 (2004) 345­376
Theories of Newtonian gravity and empirical
Jonathan Bain*
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA
Received 28 September 2003; accepted 28 October 2003
In this essay, I examine the curved spacetime formulation of Newtonian gravity known as
Newton­Cartan gravity and compare it with flat spacetime formulations. Two versions of
Newton­Cartan gravity can be identified in the physics literature--a ``weak'' version and a
``strong'' version. The strong version has a constrained Hamiltonian formulation and con-
sequently a well-defined gauge structure, whereas the weak version does not (with some
qualifications). Moreover, the strong version is best compared with the structure of what Earman
(World enough and spacetime. Cambridge: MIT Press) has dubbed Maxwellian spacetime. This
suggests that there are also two versions of Newtonian gravity in flat spacetime--a ``weak''
version in Maxwellian spacetime, and a ``strong'' version in Neo-Newtonian spacetime. I
conclude by indicating how these alternative formulations of Newtonian gravity impact the
notion of empirical indistinguishability and the debate over scientific realism.
r 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Source: Aronov, Boris - Department of Computer and Information Science, Polytechnic University


Collections: Computer Technologies and Information Sciences