New Publication

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A new publication from Ordered Universe science colleagues Josh Harvey, Hannah Smithson and Rebekah White, inspired, in its first stages, by the collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s On the Generation of Sounds, and its emphases on different types of motion, and the relation of written letters to the shape of the vocal tract in voicing the letter. ‘Hand-Foot Coupling: An Advantage for Crossed Legs‘ is published in Perception, and makes fascinating reading.

 

Ordered Universe at Leeds International Medieval Congress, 2019

Ordered Universe will be taking part in the 2019 Leeds International Congress, the largest forum for sharing research on the Middle Ages in Europe. The project has a lot to offer on the special conference theme of ‘Materialities’  so we proposed four sessions and a roundtable, all of  which were accepted. The Ordered Universe activities will take place Continue reading

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.

New Ordered Universe Publication

The Ordered Universe project is pleased to announce its latest publication, for the Applied Optics journal, Vol. 56 (2017), G197-G204, and fully open access. The experiments and writing of the paper were led and marshalled by expertly  Joshua Harvey (Mellon Foundation funded graduate student at Oxford University, Dept of Engineering Science and Pembroke college), with assistance from other members of the team, from the sciences and humanities. The paper focuses on the middle part of Grosseteste’s treatise On the Rainbow (De iride) and the shape that the rainbow forms in the sky. This precedes discussion of the colours of the rainbow, covered in other Ordered Universe papers. The current paper offers an historical context for the treatise before moving to the main discussion, testing Grosseteste’s optical thought with physical experiment and physics-based simulation. The results are available below, and show, again, the benefits of collaborative working to unlock problems posed by thinkers of the past.

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Below the Moon: Comets, Heat and Water

The next Ordered Universe symposium takes place in the week to come, May 17-19, at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. It will be great to be back at Pembroke, one of the original homes of the project, and to be broaching two new treatises for collaborative reading. These comprise the De cometis – On Comets and the De impressionibus elementorum; the latter connected to argument on the genesis, nature and activity of comets, the latter a discussion of meteorological phenomena, mostly watery (dew, hail, snow and rain). The reading sessions will be using the edition of the De cometis by Cecilia Panti, with translations of the two works, and a draft edition of the De impressionibus by Sigbjørn Sønnesyn. We will be welcoming some new participants to the group, as well as Ross Ashton and Karen Monid from the Projection Studio. The treatises under scrutiny reveal Grosseteste more at home with Aristotelian methodology, and articulating a more scientific approach to physical problems. Key aspects of his thought on sublimation, on light and on grounds for verification and falsification make their appearance, as do a range of different sources alongside Aristotle. The symposium organisation is  principally by the Oxford team, under Hannah Smithson, and the project is extremely grateful to the efforts of Joshua Harvey, Tim Farrant and Clive Siviour, as well as the College conference staff. Set course for Oxford and we’re off! Look out for reports on the progress of the meeting – a copy of the programme is appended here in PDF and also available at Issuu.

Medieval and Modern Science at Ely

On 11th February, Hannah and Giles were given a very warm welcome at Ely, at an open seminar organised by the Bishop of Huntingdon, Rt Revd David Thomson. David is also an Ordered Universe stalwart, taking the lead particularly on the Middle English version of some of Grosseteste’s earliest treatises. It was an especial pleasure, therefore, to be invited to Ely to present the project and its current work, some of the most recent scientific elements, and to participate in a lively and instructive question and answer session. We explored the life and times of Grosseteste, the context for his scientific works, and research into his rainbow treatise with Hannah’s ongoing work on retinal imaging.

We then ran a collaborative reading session on Grosseteste’s treatise On Colour. This was very stimulating, and, no matter how many times we read the text, new thoughts and and new interpretations arise. In this case the ideas were generated by the excellent and thoughtful participants. The event was run in the Old Palace, and our thanks go to all of the organisers, those who attended and to Bishop David. Certainly we came away with fresh insights. We then enjoyed a guided tour of the Cathedral, taken especially to see the Prior’s Door, with it’s magnificent carvings, including the zodiac. A stunning way to round off our visit to Ely. Thanks to all who made it possible!

The next scientific breakthrough…and the past

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

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Ordered Universe at Cambridge e-luminate – Spiritus: Light and Dark

An absolutely fantastic day in Cambridge on February 10th, with the launch of the e-luminate festival. Ordered Universe team members, Giles Gasper, Tom McLeish, Richard Bower, Hannah Smithson and Sebastian Falk presented the project, and interactive activities on medieval and modern science to the public at Great St Mary’s Church. With over 250 visitors to the displays we were very glad to support Ross Ashton and Karen Monid’s simply breathtaking projection show Spiritus: Light and Dark. This was a dazzling juxtaposition of medieval astronomical thought, modern cosmology, and a wonderful tribute to the scientific imaginations, of Grosseteste and his later successors, the contemplative beauty of music inspired by Hildgard of Bingen, and the artistry to bring all of these together in a bewitching sequence. If you are in Cambridge the show, and all of the others across the city (as well as other events around e-luminate) are on until the 15th Feb: it will be well worth the trip. Ordered Universe members were very grateful for the assistance too of Jinni Tang (Durham University) and Eleanor Puttock (Faraday Institute) in marshalling the exhibits and audiences, and to Rev. John Binns and the staff at Great St Mary’s. Astrolabes, the world of Robert Grosseteste, visualising the medieval cosmos, a modern oculus rift journey into dark matter, contemporary glasswork from the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, and optical experiments from the 13th century. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Images from Giles Gasper, Ross Ashton and Karen Monid

Spiritus: Ordered Universe at the Bouygues UK Cambridge e-Luminate Festival: ‘Let There be Light!’

Friday 10th: Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge, 15.00-19.30: Ordered Universe will be presenting Let There be Light! Medieval and Modern Science on Light, which starts with a series of short talks from 15.00 – 17.00 on the project, its research and the new projection by Ross Ashton and Karen Monid which forms part of the e-Luminate Festival. Come and hear Ross Ashton on the making of the show, Richard Bower from Durham’s Institute of Computational Cosmology on modelling Grosseteste’s treatise On Light, Hannah Smithson, Experimental Pscychology – University of Oxford, on Emobodied Light and Grosseteste’s theories of colour and the rainbow, Giles Gasper, Durham University, History Department, on Grosseteste and his scientific writings, and Tom McLeish, Physics, Durham University on lessons for modern debate between science and religion from the Middle Ages.

After the talks, the research team will be showing some interactive aspects of our research, and a poster exhibition, with more on the project, medieval science, modern vision science and galaxy modelling. Dr Sebastian Falk from Girton College will be joining us with a display on astroblabes. The talks and activities are free, the timetable and programme are listed below. Please do come along if you are in Cambridge, or to let others know!spiritus-poster

Public Talk in Durham 24th Jan: Medieval and Modern Explanations of Colour

Hannah Smithson will be delivering a public lecture in Durham next week, as part of the Institute of Advanced Study’s Fellows’ Public Lecture series.

Medieval and Modern Explorations of Human Colour Perception
will take place on
Tuesday 24 January 2017, 17:30 to 18:30

in the Joachim Room, College of St Hild & St Bede, Durham University

Talk outline: Can science today learn from thirteenth century literature? An interdisciplinary team of physicists, medievalists, Latin scholars and historians of science has embarked on a rich encounter with the great medieval English thinker Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253). The team presents Grosseteste’s treatise the De colore (On colour), to reveal and explore the three-dimensional space within which he characterises colour. His later treatise the De iride (On the rainbow) revisits his theory of colour generation, but with surprising results when seen from modern perspectives. By using medieval studies and modern colour science, the treatises can be interpreted in new, stimulating and more complete ways. Almost 800 years after their inception, Grosseteste’s writings prompt us to explore a new coordinate system for colour.

Directions to the Joachim Room, College of St Hild & St Bede with a Map – College of St Hild & St Bede is denoted as building No. 30. For more information about this event please contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk.

Please do feel free to come along, to meet Hannah and other members of the Ordered Universe team!