Jacob Barandes

Photo of Jacob Barandes (Photo Credit: Jared Leeds)

I do research at the intersection of physics and philosophy. Broadly speaking, my work has two sides: “philosophical physics,” which involves using the methodological tools of philosophy to make progress on open problems in physics, and “physical philosophy,” which involves examining what our most successful physical theories tell us about traditional questions in philosophy.

My main areas of study include the foundations of quantum mechanics, the classical limit, field theory, general relativity, thermodynamics, and formal methods in mathematical physics. I am also interested in the philosophy of probability, the philosophy of time, the philosophy of mind, the history of physics, and logic.

I founded and organize the Foundations of Physics @Harvard seminar and workshop series, which is co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy.

I completed my PhD in the Department of Physics at Harvard University, where I currently serve as Lecturer and Co-Director of Graduate Studies. I am also an Associated Faculty Member with the Department of Philosophy and a Faculty Affiliate with the Harvard Black Hole Initiative.

PhilPeople ProfileHarvard Physics ProfileBlack Hole Initiative Profile


Harvard Physics 19: Introduction to Theoretical Physics
A self-contained, historically inflected course on theoretical physics for undergraduates who are new to the subject. The course provides a first-principles treatment of the foundations of analytical dynamics, fields, thermodynamics, relativity, and quantum theory, together with coverage of the relevant mathematical methods and philosophical concepts.

Harvard Physics 137: Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics
An undergraduate philosophy/physics course on the history, structure, and interpretation of quantum theory. The course covers the century-long effort to resolve the mysteries at the heart of the theory, a story that features fantastical notions like parallel universes, pilot waves, quasi-probabilities, alive-and-dead cats, and spooky action at a distance. The course also addresses relevant questions in philosophy, including debates over metaphysics, instrumentalism, scientific realism, determinism, epistemology, and the meaning of probability.

Harvard Physics 210: General Theory of Relativity
A graduate-level course on general relativity, covering the equivalence principle, differential geometry, spacetime curvature, the Einstein field equation, the Newtonian limit, orbital mechanics in the solar system, experimental tests, gravitational waves, black holes, and cosmology.

Harvard Physics 232: Advanced Classical Electromagnetism
A graduate-level course on classical electromagnetism, covering the Maxwell equations, boundary-value problems, multipole expansions, electrodynamics, radiation, scattering, macroscopic fields in matter, special relativity, gauge theories, coherent states, magnetic monopoles, and superconductors.

Selected Papers

The Stochastic-Quantum Theorem
J. Barandes. Latest Version. arXiv:2309.03085. philsci:22502.

The Stochastic-Quantum Correspondence
J. Barandes. Latest Version. arXiv:2302.10778. philsci:21774.

Quantum Conditional Probabilities and New Measures of Quantum Information
J. Barandes, D. Kagan. Annals of Physics 448 (2023). arXiv:2109.07447. philsci:19747.

Platonic Quantum Theory
J. Barandes. Synthese 460 (2022).

On Magnetic Forces and Work
J. Barandes. Foundations of Physics 51 79 (2021). View-Only Published Version. arXiv:1911.00552. philsci:18218.

Can Magnetic Forces Do Work?
J. Barandes. arXiv:1911.08890. philsci:18219.

Gauge Invariance for Classical Massless Particles with Spin
J. Barandes. Foundations of Physics 51 7 (2021). View-Only Published Version. arXiv:1911.02515. philsci:18156.

Manifestly Covariant Lagrangians, Classical Particles with Spin, and the Origins of Gauge Invariance
J. Barandes. arXiv:1911.08892. philsci:18217.

Measurement and Quantum Dynamics in the Minimal Modal Interpretation of Quantum Theory
J. Barandes, D. Kagan. Foundations of Physics 50 1189–1218 (2020). View-Only Published Version. arXiv:1807.07136. philsci:18162.

A Synopsis of the Minimal Modal Interpretation of Quantum Theory
J. Barandes, D. Kagan. arXiv:1405.6754. philsci:18209.

The Minimal Modal Interpretation of Quantum Theory
J. Barandes, D. Kagan. arXiv:1405.6755. philsci:18208.

Hot Halos and Galactic Glasses
D. Anninos, T. Anous, J. Barandes, F. Denef, B. Gaasbeek. JHEP 01 (2012) 003. arXiv:1108.5821

Selected Talks

The Stochastic-Quantum Theory and Quantum Gravity
Harvard Black Hole Initiative Foundations Seminar. September 11, 2023. (video)

The Stochastic-Quantum Theorem
Quantum Information Center, University of Texas at Austin. August 28, 2023.

Non-Markovian Stochastic Processes and the Origins of Quantum Theory
21st European Conference on Foundations of Physics. July 10, 2023. (video)

A New Formulation of Quantum Theory
Foundations of Physics @Harvard Seminar. April 12, 2023. (video)

A New Correspondence Between Quantum Theory and the Theory of Stochastic Processes
Harvard Particle Theory Seminar. March 27, 2023.

On the Connection Between Non-Markovian Stochastic Processes and Quantum Theory
Quantum & Precision Measurements Group Journal Club, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. March 23, 2023.

Quantum Theory and Non-Markovian Stochastic Processes
Brown Theoretical Physics Center, Brown University. March 22, 2023.

The Stochastic-Quantum Correspondence
Department of Physics, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. March 17, 2023.

Non-Markovian Stochastic Processes and the Origins of Quantum Theory
Quantum-Thermodynamics Hub and the Institute for Physics Science & Technology, University of Maryland. March 8, 2023.

A New Critical Analysis of Everettian Quantum Theory
London School of Economics Sigma Club Seminar. May 23, 2022. (video)

Philosophy of Physics and the Foundations of Quantum Theory
Harvard Wednesday Night Seminar. November 17, 2021. (video)

Why We Shouldn’t Believe in Hilbert Spaces Anymore
Oxford Philosophy of Physics Seminar. June 3, 2021. (video)

The Platonic Interpretation
Harvard Black Hole Initiative Foundations Seminar. February 22, 2021. (video)

How Quantum or Field-Theoretic is Quantum Field Theory?
Harvard Foundations of Physics Mini-Workshop (organizer). May 15, 2020. (video)

The Genius Construction and the Principles of Quantum Theory
Harvard Black Hole Initiative Foundations Seminar. April 13, 2020. (video)

Classical Particle Physics and the Question of Work Done by Magnetic Fields
Harvard Particle Physics Seminar. November 6, 2019.

The Genius Construction: Revisiting the Foundations of Quantum Theory
University of Massachusetts Boston Quantum Science and Technology Seminar. October 9, 2018.

Quantum Foundations and the Minimal Modal Interpretation
Bard College Physics Seminar. November 18, 2016.

Lessons for Quantum Foundations from the Minimal Modal Interpretation: New Directions and Criteria
Columbia-Rutgers Metro Area Philosophy of Science Seminar. February 23, 2016.

Lessons from the Minimal Modal Interpretation of Quantum Theory: New Criteria for Quantum Foundations
Boston University Colloquium on the Philosophy of Science. October 9, 2015.

The Minimal Modal Interpretation of Quantum Theory
Harvard Philosophy Workshop. November 2, 2014. 

The Minimal Modal Interpretation of Quantum Theory: A Realist Approach to Quantum Foundations
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. October 14, 2014. (video)

Selected Public Writing and Events

On Trying to Understand Our World
Public talk  in the Frida Cinema’s Science on Screen series. April 12, 2023.

Quantum Mechanics, Epistemology, and Human Existence
Public talk in the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Science on Screen series. October 17, 2022. (YouTube, slides)

The Webb Telescope’s Photos Emphasize That Basic Questions About Our Existence—and Time Itself—Are Wide Open
Interview in Esquire. July 15, 2022.

Harvard Science Book Talk: Quantum Steampunk
Public conversation with Nicole Yunger Halpern about her book, Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday's Tomorrow. March 24, 2022. (Accompanying article in The Harvard Gazette. March 31, 2022.)

New Class Combines Philosophy, Physics to Look at Quantum Theory
Article in The Harvard Gazette. March 21, 2022.

Symmetries and Symmetry Breaking in the Universe
Lecture for the Harvard-MIT Math Tournament. November 14, 2021.

Harvard Science Book Talk: Philosophy of Physics - A Very Short Introduction
Public conversation with David Wallace about his book, Philosophy of Physics - A Very Short Introduction. October 12, 2021.

Paradoxes, Entropy, and the Arrow of Time
Public talk in the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Science on Screen series. September 20, 2021. (video, YouTube, slides)

They Don’t Just Flip on the Lights
Comments for an article in Esquire. September 11, 2021.

Advice to Students: Take Risks and Build Courage
Essay in the series Focal Point. The Harvard Gazette. February 19, 2020.

The Mystery of Mathematics: Teaching and Learning Math as a Human Endeavor
Review of the book Mathematics for Human Flourishing by Francis Su. Harvard Magazine. January-February, 2020.

Harvard Science Book Talk: The Universe Speaks in Numbers
Public conversation with Graham Farmelo about his book, The Universe Speaks in Numbers. June 5, 2019.

Celebrating Pi Day
Interview with BBC World News. March 14, 2019.

Harvard Science Book Talk: The Trouble With Quantum Physics, and Why It Matters
Public conversation with Adam Becker about his book, What is Real? November 15, 2018.

It’s Physical
Public talk as part of the Catalyst Conversations program at MIT (with K. Bernard). September 28, 2015.