"Physics Controversies Past and Present"

Location: Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Department of Physics

Date: Saturday 24 February 2018

Time: 10:30 - 17:00


Over the centuries the progress of physics has been marked by theoretical hypothesis investigated by experimental verification or falsification, or by experimental discovery seeking a theoretical explanation. In both circumstances, controversies have often raged before a generally accepted view is adopted. This conference will look at some famous examples starting with the observations and theory of Copernicus challenging the centuries-old theological explanation of the heavens based on Aristotle's geocentric model right up to one of the most recent, the claim by a major experimental group to have observed neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light in apparently direct contradiction of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.


The programme for the day is below:

MORNING CHAIR: Dr Sonia Antoranz Contera (University of Oxford)

10.30 am WELCOME

10.40 am Professor Jon Butterworth (University College London) - "Don't argue, just make the plot!" - Physics Controversies and How They Arise [VIDEO]

11.30 am Dr Dario Tessicini (Durham University) - Questioning Copernicus: Cosmological Principles on the Eve of the Scientific Revolution [VIDEO]

12.20 pm Professor Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds) - "The Monster Mechanical Delusion": 19th Century Controversies concerning Perpetual Motion [VIDEO]


AFTERNOON CHAIR: Professor Daniela Bortoletto (University of Oxford)

2.15 pm Dr Michael Loughlin (ITER Organization) - The Unscientific History of Cold Fusion [VIDEO]

3.05 pm Dr Susan Cartwright (University of Sheffield) - Superluminal Neutrinos: An OPERA in Three Acts [VIDEO]


4.30 pm SUMMARY OF THE DAY'S PROCEEDINGS - Dr Jim Baggott (author of "Farewell to Reality: How Fairytale Physics Betrays the Search for Scientific Truth") [VIDEO]

There will be a conference dinner at St Cross in the evening following the end of the conference with an after-dinner talk by Professor Michael Tite (University of Oxford) on how physical experimental techniques were used in the controversy over the origins of the Turin Shroud.



This event is also sponsored by a grant-in-aid from the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics.