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Randomness and Order

The Creation of Adam - Michelangelo
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 -
12:45pm to 2:00pm
Radcliffe Humanities, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford
Seminar Room

An interdisciplinary discussion exploring the role of randomness and order in physics, probability, history and music. Lunch will be available from 12:45, with the discussion beginning at 13:00. Booking is not required.

The event will begin with a 20 minute presentation by Professor Ian Walmsley (Hooke Professor of Experimental Physics & Pro Vice Chancellor for Research, University of Oxford), followed by three c. 8 minute responses from:

Professor Jonathan Cross (Professor of Musicology, University of Oxford)
Professor Alison Etheridge (Professor of Probability, University of Oxford)
Professor Chris Wickham (Chichele Professor of Medieval History, University of Oxford)

The discussion will be chaired by Dr Christopher Timpson (Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Oxford)

This seminar is part of the "Humanities and Science: In Conversation" series, which invites leading scholars and practitioners in the sciences and humanities to identify the shared methodological roots of their particular disciplines and explore how these points of convergence can be used to address current questions in their fields.

Abstract for Professor Ian Walmsley's presentation

Random all the way down: probability and quantum physics

The best theory we have of the character of the material world is quantum mechanics. Its structure is based on assessing probabilities which relate to outcomes of experiments: it seems that randomness is inherent in the basic fabric of the universe. Yet what we see in the everyday world is much more deterministic - any randomness arises from uncertainty in our detailed knowledge of the situation. The consequences are profound: we can no longer always assign particular properties to individual things, for instance. I will explore some of the strange consequences of quantum randomness for our understanding of the nature of reality.


Contact name: 
Hannah Penny
Open to all