Archive for John Barrow

Einstein’s Legacy

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on November 29, 2015 by telescoper

Yesterday I braved the inclement weather and the perils of weekend travel on Southern Trains to visit Queen Mary College, in the East End of London, for the following event:

GR100

I used to work at  Queen Mary, but haven’t been back for a while. The college and environs have been smartened up quite a lot since I used to be there, as seems to be the case for the East End generally. I doubt if I could afford to live there now!

Owing to a little local difficulty which I won’t go into, I was running a bit late so I missed the morning session. I did, however, arrive in time to see my former colleague Bangalore Sathyaprakash from Cardiff talking about gravitational waves, Jim Hough from Glasgow talking about experimental gravity – including gravitational waves but also talking about the puzzling state of affairs over “Big G” – and Pedro Ferreira from Oxford whose talk on “Cosmology for the 21st Century” gave an enjoyable historical perspective on recent developments.

The talks were held in the Great Hall in the People’s Palace on Mile End Road, a large venue that was pretty full all afternoon. I’m not sure whether it was the District/Hammersmith & City Line or the Central Line (or both) that provided the atmospheric sound effects, especially when Jim Hough described the problems of dealing with seismic noise in gravitational experiments and a train rumbled underneath right on cue.

UPDATE: Thanks to Bryn’s comment (below) I looked at a map: the Central Line goes well to the North whereas the District and Hammersmith & City Line go directly under the main buildings adjacent to Mile End Road.

Under-QM

Anyway, the venue was even fuller for the evening session, kicked off by my former PhD supervisor, John Barrow:

Einstein's Legacy

This session was aimed at a more popular audience and was attended by more than a few A-level students. John’s talk was very nice, taking us through all the various cosmological models that have been developed based on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.

Finally, topping the bill, was Sir Roger Penrose whose talk was engagingly lo-tech in terms of visual aids but aimed at quite a high level. His use of hand-drawn transparencies was very old-school, but a useful side-effect was that he conveyed very effectively how entropy always increases with time.

Penrose covered some really interesting material related to black holes and cosmology, especially to do with gravitational entropy, but my heart sank when he tried at the end to resurrect his discredited “Circles in the Sky” idea. I’m not sure how much the A-level students took from his talk, but I found it very entertaining.

The conference carries on today, but I couldn’t attend the Sunday session owing to pressure of work. Which I should be doing now!

P.S. I’ll say it before anyone else does: yes, all the speakers I heard were male, as indeed were the two I missed in the morning. I gather there was one cancellation  of a female speaker (Alessandra Buonanno), for whom Sathya stood in.  But still.

 

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Cosmology and the Constants of Nature

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on January 20, 2014 by telescoper

Just a brief post to advertise a very interesting meeting coming up in Cambridge:

–o–

Cosmology and the Constants of Nature

DAMTP, University of Cambridge

Monday, 17 March 2014 at 09:00 – Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 15:00 (GMT)

Cambridge, United Kingdom

The Constants of Nature are quantities, whose numerical values we know with the greatest experimental accuracy – but about the rationale for those values, we have the greatest ignorance. We might also ask if they are indeed constant in space and time, and investigate whether their values arise at random or are uniquely determined by some deep theory.

This mini-series of talks is part of the joint Oxford-Cambridge programme on the Philosophy of Cosmology which aims to introduce philosophers of physics to fundamental problems in cosmology and associated areas of high-energy physics.

The talks are aimed at philosophers of physics but should also be of interest to a wide range of cosmologists.  Speakers will introduce the physical constants that define the standard model of particle physics and cosmology together with the data that determine them, describe observational programmes that test the constancy of traditional ʽconstantsʼ, including the cosmological constant, and discuss how self-consistent theories of varying constants can be formulated.

Speakers:

John Barrow, University of Cambridge

John Ellis, King’s College London

Pedro Ferreira, University of Oxford

Joao Magueijo, Imperial College, London

Thanu Padmanabhan, IUCAA, Pune

Martin Rees, University of Cambridge

John Webb, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Registration is free and includes morning coffee and lunch. Participants are requested to register at the conference website where the detailed programme of talks can be found:

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cosmology-and-the-constants-of-nature-registration-9356261831

For enquiries about this event please contact Margaret Bull at mmp@maths.cam.ac.uk

Research Opportunities in the Philosophy of Cosmology

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by telescoper

I got an email this morning telling me about the following interesting opportunities for research fellowships. They are in quite an unusual area – the philosophy of cosmology – and one I’m quite interested in myself so I thought it might ahieve wider circulation if I posted the advertisement on here.

–0–

Applications are invited for two postdoctoral fellowships in the area of philosophy of cosmology, one to be held at Cambridge University and one to be held at Oxford University, starting 1 Jan 2013 to run until 31 Aug 2014. The two positions have similar job-descriptions and the deadline for applications is the same: 18 April 2012.

For more details, see here, for the Cambridge fellowship and  here for the Oxford fellowship.

Applicants are encouraged to apply for both positions. The Oxford group is led by Joe Silk, Simon Saunders and David Wallace, and that at Cambridge by John Barrow and Jeremy Butterfield.

These appointments are part of the initiative ‘establishing the philosophy of cosmology’, involving a consortium of universities in the UK and USA, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Its aim is to identify, define and explore new foundational questions in cosmology. Key questions already identified concern:

  • The issue of measure, including potential uses of anthropic reasoning
  • Space-time structure, both at very large and very small scales
  • The cosmological constant problem
  • Entropy, time and complexity, in understanding the various arrows of time
  • Symmetries and invariants, and the nature of the description of the universe as a whole

Applicants with philosophical interests in cosmology outside these areas will also be considered.

For more background on the initiative, see here and the project website (still under construction).

Astronomy Look-alikes, No. 2

Posted in Astronomy Lookalikes with tags , , on December 31, 2009 by telescoper

Just to prove I wasn’t joking,  here’s another one.

While reading the bumper Christmas holiday edition of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle the other day, I was struck by the similarity between one of the authors (the esteemed Professor John Barrow, who happens  to have been my thesis supervisor) and Father Dougal, as played by Ardal O’Hanlon in the popular situation comedy, Father Ted. Perhaps this accounts for the book’s theological overtones?

Father Dougal

Professor John Barrow