Earlier this month Giles Gasper recorded a podcast interview with Artemis Irvine (third-year history undergraduate at Durham University) for the second season of Travels Through Time. The series asks what year the interviewee would like to go back to, and in this case, it was 1215, the year of the Fourth Lateran Council, Magna Carta, and, possibly, the year that a certain Robert Grosseteste was putting together his treatise On the Sphere. This wonderful and intriguing work is the subject of the second Ordered Universe volume currently in preparation: Mapping the Universe. So, if you’re wondering what happened in 1215 (which some of you may be), then this may be for you. Many thanks indeed to Artemis and the Travels in Time team!
Happy Grosseteste Day! The 9th October marks the anniversary of Grosseteste’s death, attended, as the chronicler Matthew Paris noted, with the miraculous sounds of bells in the night sky. As part of the Ordered Universe’s commitment to university access we led, for the second year, a strand based around the project for the OxNet Access Scheme. For us, this is based around the North-East, with a hub school at Southmoor, and involved a series of seminars from team members, an Easter school at Durham, and the summer school in Oxford. Here’s what some of the students on the course thought:
A guest post by Thomas Henderson, 2nd year history undergraduate at Durham University, who has spent this week as an undergrad mentor and tutor at the summer school
After a year’s programme of seminars and a residential Easter school in Durham, the OxNet-Ordered Universe access scheme has reached its climax with this week’s residential summer school at Pembroke College, Oxford. The sixth-formers from Sunderland have joined with others from OxNet schemes in Manchester, Cheshire and London, as well as students from rural India supported by the Karta Institute, for a programme of seminars, lectures and tutorials aimed to provide an insight into the realities of university study.
The entire summer school was kicked off on Sunday evening by Dr Peter Claus, Pembroke’s Access Fellow, and Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, who introduced the themes of the school’s title: ‘Through a Glass Darkly’. His diverting lecture urged the students to embrace the limitations of human knowledge, and its attendant feelings of uncertainty and confusion, as the precursors of investigation and exploration. Taking its cue from the Ordered Universe project, the school is designed to challenge the way the students conceptualise knowledge, and to encourage them to think in a way unbounded by A-level mark-schemes or conventional divisions between disciplines.
At this half-way point, it is clear that the sixth-formers have taken these words to heart. Their eager inquiries about the realities of university life and applications (making the most of their undergraduate mentors) have been matched by affirmations of their intentions to apply to elite universities. A visit from journalists from the BBC Look North served to focus them further. In their academic work, they have been just as engaged and stimulating.
The Ordered Universe strand is focused on colour, light and rainbows. Work on these topics has included two of the project’s signature collaborative reading sessions, of De iride and De luce, led by Sig Sønnesyn, and a workshop on the science of rainbows with Joshua Harvey. These sessions have seen students enthusiastically discussing and disagreeing with each other over (among other things) the nature of rainbows, the problems of perception and whether a sunrise can exist without somebody to observe it. We look forward to what they will produce come Friday!
And here it is, the wonderful show from Philip Ball’s Science Stories, on Radio 4. An evocative opening, and then a treat with Tom talking about Grosseteste, the De luce and the interdisciplinary work of the Ordered Universe, and a final consideration of multiverses with Mary Jane Rubenstein. Thought-provoking, meditative and stimulating by turns! Just shows how well the story of Grosseteste’s world, how it inspires scholarship and creativity today, and the intrinsic interest in the phenomena studies, works on radio. Do listen – it’s well worth it.
One not to miss! Tom McLeish is featured at 21.00 on Wednesday this week, talking with Philip Ball, on Science Stories, Radio 4: The Medieval Bishop’s Big Bang Theory. Tom and Philip explore the scientific world of Robert Grosseteste, rainbows, colour and light streaming through Cathedral windows, and the birth of the cosmos described in his treatise ‘On Light’ with its eerie resonance of modern thinking. Listen in, or to the podcast afterwards!
Ordered Universe core research team member Jack Cunningham, from Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, features on In Our Time in a programme dedicated to Roger Bacon, which aired on Thursday 20th April. Together with Amanda Power (University of Oxford), and Elly Truitt (Bryn Mawr College), Jack discusses with Melvyn Bragg the life and legacy of Bacon, including his relationship and debt to Robert Grosseteste. Do take the time to download and listen!
A short notice that Tom, Giles and Hannah have published a discussion piece in The Conversation, thinking through the inspiration that past engagement with natural phenomena can have on modern scientific thinking. Einstein, superconductivity, rainbows and ne0-classicism: it’s all here: The next scientific breakthrough…
The Arts and Humanities Research Council has produced a fascinating brochure on some of the projects it has funded over the course of the last decade, now available in an online version. The Ordered Universe features as one of the projects, under the Science in Culture theme, on pages 83-84 (if you want to take a look!). Continue reading
Haydn’s Creation is being performed tonight at Durham Cathedral by the Durham Singers and Durham Singers Ensemble. With a splendid array of soloists from the Samling Academy and Samling Artist Bradley Travis, the convert begins at 7.30, under the direction of Julian Wright. There is a pre-performance talk for ticket holders, given by Giles Gasper, 7.00-7.20 exploring the deeper history to narratives of the Genesis account of creation. Continue reading