Isaac Newton Christmas Lecture 2018

Much ado about nothingness: some perspectives from history and physics

a duo public lecture (including 20 minutes interval) by

Professor Anna Marie Roos

School of History & Heritage, University of Lincoln

and

Dr Fabien Paillusson

School of Mathematics & Physics, University of Lincoln

Wednesday 19 December 2018

6 pm – 7:45 pm

Newton Lecture Theatre INB0114 in the Isaac Newton building, University of Lincoln

This special Christmas lecture consists of two short parts of 25-30 minutes each with 20 minutes interval, during which a bar will be open where visitors can buy mulled or usual wine and soft drinks. After the second talk there will be some time for questions.

Book a place

Saying anything about nothing, (and not the other way around), has surprisingly been of interest to Western thought for a very long time. In this duo lecture by Prof Anna Marie Roos from the School of History and Heritage and Dr Fabien Paillusson from the School of Mathematics and Physics, the audience will get to learn more about the various questions about nothingness that have puzzled thinkers from antiquity to this day. In a first part, Prof Anna Marie Roos will discuss the various takes that have been proposed about nothing, from Parmenides’ grapple with the semantic of discussing nothingness at all to Boyle’s conception of a physical vacuum. In a second part, Dr Fabien Paillusson will discuss how modern developments in physics try to understand whether the physical vacuum is actually empty.


Anna Marie Roos is a Professor of the history of science and medicine at the University of Lincoln. She has a  B.A. in Molecular Biology, M.H. in Humanities and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Colorado (USA). She came to Lincoln in 2013 from the University of Oxford, where she was the Lister Research Fellow.  Anna Marie is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, and a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. She is also editor of Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science. Anna Marie  studies the early Royal Society, as well as natural history, chemistry, and medicine in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Her scientific and historical work has been featured in Nature News, Welcome History, the Guardian and the New York Times.


IMG_6050-8Fabien Paillusson is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Lincoln. He holds the degrees of M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris (formerly the Sorbonne), France. He came to Lincoln in 2015 from Durham University and previously also worked at the University of Cambridge and the University of Barcelona in Spain. He publishes on a wide range of topics spanning the physical and life sciences, from granular materials to DNA. His broader interests lie in Theoretical and Computational modelling, the Foundations of Physics, Physics and Maths Education, AI (Machine Learning and Automated Reasoning), Logic and the Philosophy of Science.

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Steven Keeble says:

    I really enjoyed the event – I could have listened to for much longer – a great pity his lecture was limited in time. In terms of the questions – a better solution I find is to invite interested people to remain behind to discuss further – one person started to dominate the floor which was rather tedious……however, I shall certainly be returning for further lectures and was most impressed by the new facilities – my first visit to the campus

    Like

  2. Stephen says:

    The lecture was very interesting and covered a select range of topics in relation to the history and evolution of physics. I understood a great deal of it despite coming from a different field and enjoyed the lecture.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      Thank you very much for your positive feedback. It is greatly appreciated.

      Like

  3. Zuland3 says:

    An enjoyable evening, at times challenging but that is the point.
    My son’s eyes lit up at the mention of quantum physics and he felt emboldened enough to ask a question at the end.
    The mince pies and drinks were a thoughtful addition but some of the grandstading questions were not always welcome and added little to the communal learning.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      We are glad you enjoyed the evening and that your son liked it! As for quantum mechanics, which I didn’t have time to talk about, I forgot to mention that I had written a blog post on the subject (https://obliviousphysicist.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/is-quantum-mechanics-crazy-enough/) . It is a bit less accessible than the style of the public lecture but I do hope that the many links to youtude videos inside can help better understand the subject.

      Like

  4. We both really enjoyed both lectures – they were pitched just right. Interesting and informative they led to great dinner time conversation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      Thank you very much for the kind comment. We are happy to see that it sparked further conversation later on.

      Like

  5. Rosemarie DaCosta says:

    We enjoyed the lecture again and although not coming from a scientific background understood much of the content. Two shorter themes with a short interval worked well and the mulled wine option was a nice thought. My husband and I discussed the subject in our car journey home and concluded that we would never be physicists but that constant learning is a very good thing! Roll on the next set of lectures and thank you to all who make it possible!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      Thank you very much for this positive comment. Hope to see you again in some of our coming lectures.

      Like

  6. Dear LSMP,
    I am writing to thank all involved in last night’s Isaac Newton lecture.
    It was treat for my daughter and my friend’s son. ( Our ‘kids’ have just been interviewed to read History at Oxford and maths at Cambridge, respectively, so last night seemed tailor made!)
    Both lectures were genuinely interesting, humorous and very well presented. How excellent to see our local university has such high quality faculty members!
    We will, absolutely, be coming to future events.
    Thank you, again, and Merry Christmas.
    Best wishes
    Lindsay Parr

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      Thank you very much for your positive feedback. This is greatly appreciated. All the best to your daughter and friend’s son in their respective endeavours. We look forward to having you again at one of our upcoming lectures.

      Like

  7. Luc Bidaut says:

    Excellent lectures as always, both entertaining and enlightening with brilliant speakers. A great way to end the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      Thank you very much for the positive comment. It encourages us to continue and improve every year.

      Like

  8. Anna says:

    Very Enjoyable – Thank You

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      We are delighted you enjoyed it. Tank you.

      Like

  9. Neil says:

    Very interesting lectures.
    Thanks to both lecturers and everyone else who helped.
    I was very pleased that Robert Hooke was mentioned by Anna Marie and l would like to ask if there was a rivalry between him and Newton and if there is any truth in the notion that Hookes work and reputation was “tarnished “ by this ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fabien Paillusson says:

      We are very happy you found the lectures interesting. As for the question about Hooke, let me convey my colleague Anna Marie Roos’s reply on the matter:

      “Yes, there was a serious rivalry, having to do with the fact that Hooke and some of his contemporaries claimed Hooke was the first to postulate the inverse square law of attraction and that planets moved in elliptical orbits. Newton went as far to write several letters to colleagues stating that perhaps Hooke had proposed the idea, but that he, Newton, did the hard mathematical work in the Principia to show it was so. Hooke also criticised Newton’s work with the spectrum, and it is fairly certain that Newton delayed publishing his Opticks until after Hooke’s death.

      As far as tarnishing reputations, that’s more subject to interpretation. While many gifted experimentalists were overshadowed by Newton, Newton’s subsequent role as President of the Royal Society meant he was well placed to promote his own scientific reputation.

      Hope that helps. If you want some good biographies of Newton, Patricia Fara and Rob Iliffe have written some shorter ones, but Richard Westfall’s Never at Rest is the most detailed analysis. For Hooke, Lisa Jardine’s biography is difficult to surpass.

      Like

      1. Neil says:

        Thanks for the prompt and informative reply and the recommended books.
        Looking forward to the next lecture.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Fabien Paillusson says:

    Reblogged this on Theory of Complex Matter.

    Like

  11. Linda Mumby says:

    An enjoyable evening. Thank you to all involved. We will definitely be interested in any further lectures.

    Like

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