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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 61 - February 2011

A month today on Tuesday 1st March our main Public Lecture of the term will be given by Dr. Jennifer Wiseman in the Queen’s Lecture Theatre at Emmanuel College at 5.30 p.m. with the title ‘Exoplanets, Life and Human Significance’. Dr Wiseman has been recently appointed as the senior project scientist for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope at the Goddard Space Flight Center, where she previously headed the Laboratory for Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics. Dr Wiseman is an engaging and lively speaker, with access to the very latest unpublished data in the current search for planets that might harbour life, so for those in the Cambridge area this is an event not to be missed.

Our Faraday Research Seminar Programme got off to a flying start last week with around 80 present to listen to Prof. Andrew Wyllie FRS as he guided us through the programmed death of cells coupled to theological reflections on the wider meaning of death. Next week’s seminar by Prof. Peter Clarke, a neuroscientist from the University of Lausanne, on Tuesday 8th Feb, promises to be no less engaging. His topic will be ‘Brain Determinism and Free-Will’. Then on Tuesday 22nd Feb., Dr David Williams from the Veterinary School here at Cambridge will be giving a seminar entitled: ‘Animal Rights, Human Responsibilities’. All seminars are held in the Garden Room Seminar Room at St. Edmund’s College at 1.00 p.m. preceded by a free light buffet lunch from 12.30 p.m.

Looking ahead to next month, March sees the launch of the UK and then US tours of the Faraday Institute sponsored play Let Newton Be! written by Craig Baxter and produced by the Menagerie Theatre Company. The play saw its very first production at Trinity College (Newton’s old College) back in 2009 as part of the 800th Birthday Celebrations of Cambridge University, receiving some excellent reviews at the time that can be down-loaded from the ‘What’s On?’ section of the Faraday web-site ( The UK tour will be launched in Cambridge over the period March 18/19 and ticketed productions will take place at the Howard Lecture Theatre, Downing College, at 2.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. on Saturday 19th March. Tickets are on sale from the ADC Box-Office by email on, by phone on 01223 300085, or in person at the ADC, Park Street, Cambridge, CB5 8AS (opening hours Tue and Fri 12.30pm-7.00pm; Wed, Thurs and Sat 3.00pm-7.00pm).
There will also be a special performance at the Royal Society in London on Monday 28th March at 7.00 p.m. The play will be followed by a panel discussion on the fascinating questions raised by the script and, more broadly, on the relevance of Newton for the contemporary discussion between science and religion. The distinguished panel (chaired by the Faraday Director) comprises Lord Martin Rees FRS (Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and until recently President of The Royal Society), Prof. John Barrow FRS (Professor of Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University), Prof. John Hedley Brooke (Emeritus Professor of Science and Religion, Oxford University) and Prof. Robert Iliffe (Professor of Intellectual History and the History of Science, and Director of the online Newton Project, University of Sussex). The ticket price includes the play, panel discussion, and the drinks reception afterwards. This promises to be a fascinating evening and early booking is advised to secure a seat. Tickets are on-sale now on the Faraday web-site.

There is still time (but not much) to book a place for ‘The Georges Lemaître Anniversary Conference’ organised by the Faraday Institute and to be held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Thursday 7th April – Sunday 10th April, 2011. In collaboration with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, the Conference is being held to mark the 80th anniversary of the publication of Lemaître’s seminal work on the ‘Primeval Atom’ (which we now know as the Big Bang). On-line registration is available at Conference.php.

The 2011 Courses Programme got off to a flying start with a course for a very enthusiastic group of ordinands from the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges. We had the highest number yet sign up for this optional ‘intensive’ and the attendees were treated to an excellent range of talks and given practical guidance for their future ministries.

On-line registration is also open for our ever popular Summer Course which as usual is bringing together an internationally renowned range of speakers. Details can be found at Courses.php and early registration is recommended.

The LASAR team have just presented a paper at the ‘Education in a Post Secular Society Conference’ hosted by The British Education Research Association and the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. The conference was in Canterbury on Saturday 29th Jan. Their paper was called ‘“One day, we may be able to explain the whole universe using science alone”: A study to explore pupils’ ideas about the limitations of science.’ The team report that the session was well attended and generated considerable discussion.

Planning is well underway for the LASAR summer conference and we encourage all interested to please sign up for this as soon as possible if you would like to attend. The conference is called, ‘Science and Religious Education in Schools: New Possibilities (25th June 2011)’. It will suit teachers and trainee teachers of science and religious education in primary and secondary schools. Join us to share ideas; hear from lead-researchers; ask questions of an expert panel and to network over a buffet lunch (which is included within the fee). Speakers include Prof. Sir Colin Humphreys, Prof. Mary James (Chair), Dr Keith Taber and Prof. Michael Reiss. The cost is £20 and you can register now via the conferences section of the Faraday Institute’s website at Conference.php.

February is a busy month for the Test of Faith project, with talks, seminars and school events around the country. The Durham day conference, ‘Science & Christianity: An Introduction’, on Saturday 19th Feb, will take participants through the Test of Faith short course in one day (speakers are Dr David Wilkinson & Dr Ruth Bancewicz, details at  And if you are visiting the Christian Resources Exhibition on 24th February do look out for Ruth Bancewicz’s seminar (details at

The past month the Course Director spoke to a packed meeting of the Oxford Intercollegiate Christian Union (OICCU) on the topic ‘Life, the Universe and Everything: Randomness or Design?’. The past month also saw a group of 30 students from the US (on a ‘grand tour’ of Europe) visit The Faraday Institute for an afternoon of lectures and discussion on science and religion. Although we do not advertise the opportunity, now and again we do put on special programmes for visiting groups of students from overseas – maybe something to bear in mind for those planning tours in the future.

Denis Alexander Bob White
[Director]  [Associate Director]