Inspiring Young Minds with Old Thinking

A blog from Thomas Henderson, Durham University, History undergraduate, and recipient of a Laidlaw Scholarship, attached to the project for the next two years.

Last week, the Ordered Universe enjoyed a prominent role in OxNet Access Week summer school at Pembroke College, Oxford. Run under the aegis of Dr Peter Claus, the programme is designed to introduce sixth-formers to the realities of university life, study and research (about which more can be read in the previous post). The week’s programme took its title – ‘The World Machine’ – from the project, and placed particular emphasis on the demands of interdisciplinarity. In introducing the summer school as a whole, Giles Gasper urged the 16- and 17-year-olds to ignore the boundaries they were used to, and to shed the fear of appearing stupid or wrong – skills necessary both for interdisciplinary research and the transition from further to higher education.

As such, the separate streams of Humanities, Science and Theology, though operating in parallel, were regularly combined in shared lectures given by members of the Ordered Universe project: Hannah Smithson lecturing on colour perception, Tom McLeish on the role of inspiration in scientific research, Richard Bower on Cosmology, medieval and modern, and Giles Gasper on the Grosseteste’s life, times and scientific output. Working in the college’s chapel, Alexandra Carr produced an arresting light-based multimedia sculpture; an impressive achievement considering her short time frame. This, along with her talks given with Giles Gasper encouraged the students to think about their subjects in more creative, original ways.

In addition to this broad interdisciplinary approach, the Ordered Universe had its own teaching strand. This centred on collaborative reading of Robert Grosseteste’s De luce and De colore, along with lectures, and a successful seminar on sound given by Joshua Harvey. More intensive tutorials were run by Ordered Universe contributors Joshua Harvey and Tim Farrant, with Tom Henderson and Alexandra Haigh together tutoring a third group. Though the work was undoubtedly challenging, the sixth-formers rose magnificently to meet it, making insightful contributions. It was immensely gratifying for tutors to watch as the students grew in confidence over the course of the week, taking to heart Giles Gasper’s assurance that “there are no stupid questions”.

Students’ feedback showed that, while they found the work more difficult than they were used to, their experience of the Ordered Universe project had been immensely rewarding. It was clear that they had internalised the projects principles, looking beyond narrow conceptions of individual disciplines to be more curious and adventurous in their thinking.

Back to the roots

During the most recent of the Ordered Universe Symposia, medieval specialists and modern scientists applied their minds to Robert Grosseteste’s De sphera (On the sphere). In this early treatise of his, Grosseteste describes the movements of the heavenly bodies in the firmament according to the observer’s position on earth. The astronomical knowledge available during the supposedly so dark Middle Ages is of impressive accuracy Continue reading

Ordered Universe goes west

 

Macrobian map
A Macrobian map of the inhabitable world (source: cartographic-images.net)

Robert Grosseteste, following the most authoritative texts at his disposal, was convinced that the only land mass of the earth that was actually inhabitable was the part we would now say is bounded by the Atlantic on the west side, and by the Saharan desert to the south. Some representatives of the Ordered Universe group are about to put that view to the test, boldly boarding transatlantic flights to seek out parts of the world not even mentioned by Macrobius, Ovid, and Ptolemy. Continue reading

Who was the first real physicist?

A post from Brian Tanner – one of the most common searches we encounter on the Ordered Universe blog is ‘who was the first physicist/scientist’ or variants thereof – Brian offers some options:

Perhaps it is because my son is Director of Cross-Curricula Learning at St Albans School, that on Friday March 4th, I found myself speaking to a large number of sixth-form students about the history of physics. Their response to my initial questions to them of what they understood by the scientific method and why scientific enquiry differed, for example, from the study of literature was excellent. Continue reading

Book Launch: Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln

Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral

A notice of a special event for Philippa Hoskin and the Lincoln Record Society:

On Friday 11th Sept. 2015 the Lincoln Record Society will be launching their much anticipated, Robert Grosseteste as Bishop of Lincoln: The Episcopal Rolls 1235-1253. Ed. Philippa M. Hoskin, Pub. Boydell & Brewer. The event is free (including parking) and light refreshment will be available. The event will take place in the Hardy Building, Seminar Room 1 (next to main Reception) at 4.00pm. Continue reading

Visit to Lincoln Cathedral

The magnificent entrance to the Cathedral, and on the surviving romanesque sections.
The magnificent entrance to the Cathedral, and on the surviving romanesque sections.
And the view from the interior towards the entrance
And the view from the interior towards the entrance
Images from the front door...
Images from the front door…
more, from the door columns
more, from the door columns
Nave to pulpitum
Nave to pulpitum
Figures from the pulpitum, dividing nave and crossing from the quire
Figures from the pulpitum, dividing nave and crossing from the quire
And another
And another
The Dean's Eye window, from Grosseteste's time in the Chapter at Lincoln
The Dean’s Eye window, from Grosseteste’s time in the Chapter at Lincoln
The crossing, with bell hoist door.
The crossing, with bell hoist door.
Attentive response to the guided tour…
Guide and tour in the quire...
Guide and tour in the quire…
The quire.
The quire.
The man himself, or at least his tomb, covered with a scaffolding tower. Grosseteste.
The man himself, or at least his tomb, covered with a scaffolding tower. Grosseteste.
The Grosseteste Chapel - an opportunity for greater celebration of Grosseteste and his life, just waiting for a campaign.
The Grosseteste Chapel – an opportunity for greater celebration of Grosseteste and his life, just waiting for a campaign.
The Angel Quire and the place of the shrine of St Hugh.
The Angel Quire and the place of the shrine of St Hugh.
Angels in their realm of glory
Angels in their realm of glory
Tomb of Eleanor, wife of Edward I.
Tomb of Eleanor, wife of Edward I.
The Grosseteste window in the Chapter-House.
The Grosseteste window in the Chapter-House.
A somewhat 19th century Grosseteste reforming the Catholic Church...
A somewhat 19th century Grosseteste reforming the Catholic Church…
Ordered Universe Team in the Chapter House
Ordered Universe Team in the Chapter House
Tom, Cecilia and Hannah, with Grosseteste behind.
Tom, Cecilia and Hannah, with Grosseteste behind.

 

Medieval Theories – New Interpretations – New Scientist

The New Scientist has a new piece on the De luce paper just out. A lovely discussion of the project and some great comments from Avi Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. This is our second feature in the magazine following Michael Brook’s discussion of Grosseteste’s thought on colourimage001And for many more, we hope, as we explore Grosseteste’s world – after the rainbow we turn our attention to the generation of sounds….

Recreating a Medieval Universe – the De Luce

image001We are very excited to announce the full scientific analysis of Grosseteste’s De luce  – ‘On Light’ will be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A  within the next month. A pre-submission version is available at  the Arxiv site. This takes the form of what we are calling a functional analysis of the treatise: taking Grosseteste’s account of how the body of the universe is formed, and the subsequent generation of the perfect and imperfect spheres of the universe, and modelling it mathematically, using modern media to interpret a vision of physical universe from the 13th century. Continue reading

New Ordered Universe publication – JOSA 31 (2014)

IMG_1876
Hannah and Phil with their Rainbow
Grosseteste's rainbow co-ordinates mapped onto perceptual colour plane by H. Smithson
Grosseteste’s rainbow co-ordinates mapped onto perceptual colour plane by H. Smithson

We’re very pleased to announce the publication of our latest collaborative investigation into the rainbow, ‘Color-coordinate system from a 13th-century account of rainbows’ which has come out in the Journal of the Optical Society of America A, 31 (2014), A341-A349. The article explores  colour within the 3D framework set out in Grosseteste’s De colore and  now links the axes of variation to observable properties of rainbows, as Grosseteste indicates. Continue reading