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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 83 - December 2012

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1.      Faraday Seminars – online archive
2.      Faraday Reception for Scientists
3.-5. Faraday Courses
6.      Gifford Lecture – St Andrews
7.      Staff preaching engagements at Girton College
8.      Staff activities – Denis Alexander
9.      Staff activities – Ruth Bancewicz
10.    Staff activities – Diana Beech
11.    LASAR project activities
12.    New Faraday Institute smart phone app

1. Research seminars at the Faraday in November were given by Prof Sarah Coakley (Cambridge) on ‘Evolution, Cooperation and God: A Discussion of the Aberdeen Gifford Lectures 2012’ (6th) and by Sir John Meurig Thomas on ‘The genius of Michael Faraday’ (20th). Sir John’s seminar was followed by an extended discussion time organized by two of the Friends of the Faraday Colin and Janet Abbiss (to become a Friend of the Faraday see https://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.ukFriend.php). Numbers at seminars this term have been consistently high with 60-80 routinely in attendance. But such numbers pale in comparison with those who watch/listen on-line. All our seminars and lectures are posted on the University of Cambridge web-site [www.sms.cam.ac.uk/institution/FARADAY] as well as the Faraday web-site. The University site gives stats on the number of down-loads/seminar and it is interesting to note that the more specialized seminars often attract as many down-loads as the less specialized. For example, Tim Mawson’s seminar entitled ‘A Philosopher’s Perspective on Anthropic Fine-Tuning’ has had 10,079 down-loads since the talk was first given on 26th Oct 2010.

2. On Monday, 19th November the Faraday Institute held a reception at the Guildhall in Cambridge for those who self-identify as Christians within the Cambridge scientific community, from university departments, research institutes or in local companies. Over 160 scientists attended, ranging from those at the beginning of their careers, Ph.D. students, through to those who have achieved a certain eminence in their field, including a Nobel Laureate. Following a buffet-style reception, Sir John Polkinghorne FRS spoke about his life in science and as a priest. The talk was followed by discussions in 14 disciplinary groupings. This allowed the participants to get to know others working in their own or related fields, discuss Sir John’s talk and share the challenges they face in their research.

3. The next Faraday course will be held 9-11 January 2013, and will be ‘An Introduction to Science and Religion’. This course is intended mainly for students of the Cambridge Theological Federation, but with a few places available to similar delegates from elsewhere.

4. A course with the same title, ‘An Introduction to Science and Religion’, but aimed primarily at scientists, is taking place 22-24 March 2013, and details may be found on the Faraday Institute website.

5. Information about the Faraday Institute Summer Course 2013, entitled ‘Science and Religion – Two Paths to Truth?’ have also just been posted on the web. This course is also open for applications and will take place 7-13 July 2013 (see www.st edmunds.cam.ac.ukCourses.php for details about all three courses and also for Faraday collaborative courses taking place overseas).

6. Those anywhere near St. Andrew’s University in Scotland may be interested to know that our Emeritus Director, Denis Alexander, is due to give the Gifford Lectures there on 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th December on the overall theme ‘Genes, Determinism and God’. Further details may be found at: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/gifford/.

7. As part of the Girton College chapel series on Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, the associate director preached on Sunday 4th on the theme of ‘Water’, detailing his life as an oceanographer and his faith as a Christian. The director preached on the 18th on the theme ‘Earth’, focusing on the relationship between the Creator God, His creation, and humans, created in His image. The course director preached on the 25th on the theme ‘Fire’, focusing on Mgr Georges Lemaître’s ‘fireworks universe’, now known as the Big Bang, and its theological implications.

8. This month Denis Alexander spoke at a conference for the Anglican clergy of Rochester Archdeaconry, and gave a workshop and spoke at an evening public lecture for the pupils, staff and parents of Downe House School.

9. Dr Ruth Bancewicz spoke on her research on beauty and wonder in science and theology at the Liverpool Christians in Science group, and at two ‘God and the Big Bang’ schools conferences organised by the Diocese of Manchester. She also took part in a panel discussion at the Christians in Science group in Purley, and was the speaker at an ‘Ask the Scientist’ event at The Salvation Army, Bromley. She will be giving a lecture on ‘Science and Wonders’ at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity on Monday 3rd December. For details and tickets go to http://www.licc.org.uk/

10. On 10th November, Dr. Diana Beech attended the 'Falling Walls Circle' at the Federal Foreign Office, Berlin. There she met with 80 decision-makers from relevant institutions, divisions and committees in the European Union to discuss and design solutions for the most critical issues around scientific research in Europe. On 15th November, Dr. Beech spoke to policy makers from the European Commission at the first EURAXESS international conference in Beijing about the main concerns facing researchers today. Dr. Beech also acted as 'rapporteur' for a parallel workshop on the importance of networking researchers across borders and presented the panel's conclusions to an audience of over 200 scientists from both Europe and China.

11. The LASAR project leader, Dr Berry Billingsley co-organised a conferral for teachers, teacher-trainers, historians, theologians and scientists to consider what teenagers do and should think science and religion say about what it means to be human. This took place on the 1st November and was hosted by Dr Margaret Yee, Theology, Oxford University. "Robots and religion" was the theme for an event for 60 10-year-old students, organised by the LASAR with the help of 30 trainee primary teachers on November 23rd at the University of Reading. This is the first of a series of workshops and events that the team will be organising for Primary Schools. Two free events for secondary school students are already scheduled for June and September 2013 and the details are on the FaradaySchools site, www.faradayschools.com. Liz Smith has joined the LASAR team as Schools Events Coordinator. Her contact details are also on the FaradaySchools site.

12. Finally, something to look out for: the Faraday Institute is about to launch its very own smartphone app. Featuring leading science-religion stories of the day via the daily newsfeed, educational resources, YouTube links and much more - this app (available on Android and iPhone) will make Faraday's output widely available around the world. More information will be available on our website and social media platforms very soon!

Bob White Meric Srokosz
[Director] [Associate Director]