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Facing the Impossible in Physics
Alice Courvoisier, Carolyn Dougherty and Jacqueline Saville

Credit: Jess WallaceCredit: Jess Wallace
  • Thursday 14 June 2018, 6.00PM to 7.30pm
  • Free admission
    Booking required
    Book tickets
  • The Lakehouse, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York (map|getting to campus)
  • Wheelchair accessible

Event details

Not so many centuries ago, everyone knew the Sun orbited the Earth; any other model of the Universe was impossible. But that didn't make it true.

Scientific progress is sometimes portrayed as a smooth and logical process, uncovering the next jigsaw piece of some eternal and abiding Truth about the world we live in. In fact it's a sequence of hypothesis, observation and new improved hypothesis. All observations need to be interpreted, and that isn’t - and probably can’t be - completely divorced from the beliefs, fears and expectations of the society it's interpreted within. Sometimes the only way to make real progress is to defy convention and imagine the impossible.

Join Alice Courvoisier and Carolyn Dougherty of the University of York and writer Jacqueline Saville as they discuss the history of physics and astronomy in the context of prevailing contemporary views.

How do mad ideas and science fiction become accepted as the new normal?

About the speakers

Dr Alice Courvoisier teaches Mathematics in the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of York. Working with future engineers sparked her interest in ethics and in societal aspects of science and technology. She has talked to specialised and lay audiences on topics ranging from sea kayaking to solar physics and has been known to tell a story or two.

Carolyn Dougherty is a civil engineer/project manager, currently completing a PhD in Economic History at the University of York. She speaks and writes about the history of technology and engineering.

Jacqueline Saville spent nine years at three universities in an attempt to be a physicist, then became a writer instead. She blogs at where some of her stories and graphic novels are free to download.


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