OxNet Seminar 3 – Cosmology

Last week, Tom McLeish, York University, took our students on a tour of the cosmos, past and present. Here are their reflections:

The seminar on cosmology was very compelling, bringing to light many concepts I was unaware of and were of great interest to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture, as we were shown interactive versions of the universe, comparing the medieval universe with that of the modern day. Within the reading were explorations of what a black hole is, how one is created and, importantly, what happens to matter when it enters a black hole. Aspects such as escape velocity, the event horizon and the curvature of space were discussed in the reading, all of which were new ideas to me, and are things I will research into following the lecture. Additionally, the history of how various characteristics of space were discovered was incorporated into the reading, and expanded on during the talk, with an array of different images and resources being used to illustrate how the way we look at the universe has shifted through time. Overall, the expansions on ideas within cosmology and the enthusiasm for the subject shown by Tom McLeish made this a particularly engaging and fascinating lecture.

Amy Wilkinson, Byron Sixth Form

From nothingness, the medieval cosmos expanded in our minds, driven by the forceful passion of Professor Tom McLeish. Sphere after sphere crystallised until the universe of Robert Grosseteste was complete. This universe was one ruled by logic, by mathematics and therefore one that held similarities to the current model. Yet Grosseteste still wove Christianity and ancient principles into the fabric of his universe. Thus, Grosseteste formed an acceptable pivot to tilt the medieval world towards the modern; he stirred the stagnant thought of the era and cultured the germ of science for future generations.

Thady Fox, Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School

This seminar discussed cosmology in the medieval period, and we took a trip through the universe both as it was believed to be over eight hundred years ago and as we know it today. We discussed the common misconception that the earth was believed to be flat in the medieval period and how in fact most people were aware the earth was a sphere. Also, we looked at how contemporaries mapped the solar system with circles and dealt with any breaks from the pattern, such as the retrograde of Mars. It was fascinating to look at the universe from a different perspective and compare it with the cosmos I am familiar with.

Molly Mooney, Compton House Sixth Form

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