UPDATE: View photos from the 42nd Annual Lauds & Laurels awards banquet


James “Jim” Weatherall’s research on Newtonian theories may take a higher level of learning to understand, but that’s okay – he’s in great company. The logic & philosophy of science graduate student will finish his Ph.D. this year at UCI in one of the nation’s top-ranked philosophy of physics graduate programs and continue on with the department as an assistant professor in the fall.

"We are very fortunate to have Jim at UC Irvine," says Jeff Barrett, logic & philosophy of science professor and Chancellor's Fellow. "I believe that there has never been a more promising young researcher in the philosophy of physics anywhere."

Jim came to UCI in 2007 with an undergraduate degree in physics and philosophy and master’s degree in physics from Harvard. Since then, he has also completed a master’s in fine arts in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson, and a doctorate in mathematics and physics from the Stevens Institute of Technology.

While at UCI, he’s published four philosophy of physics articles, including one in the journal Philosophy of Science for which he is managing editor. He’s co-written five papers in top-tier physics journals, published nine popular science articles in well-read venues – including a recent co-written article on unified field theories for Scientific American – and he has a forthcoming book with Houghton, Mifflin, and Harcourt Press on the use of physical methods in economic modeling.

His research has shown 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,” explains Weatherall. He finds that classical physics can explain inertial motion, too.

“Jim’s theorem is a significant and highly non-trivial piece of mathematical physics,” says David Malament, logic and philosophy of science Distinguished Professor and Weatherall’s graduate advisor.

“With some gifted students, one gets a sense that they do a certain sort of work, they do it very well, and they will continue to do it very well in the future. I haven’t a clue what Jim is going to be doing even just a few years from now, but I expect it to be wonderful. It will be a pleasure just to sit back and watch.”

Come celebrate Jim’s accomplishments with the School of Social Sciences at the 42nd UCI Alumni Association Lauds & Laurels Ceremony May 17, 2012 to be held in the UCI Student Center. Click here for further information.

Listen in as Jim delivers the UCI Graduate Hooding Ceremony address on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 3:30 p.m. Click here to learn more.

-Heather Wuebker, Social Sciences Communications

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