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2017-2018 Maxwell Lectures

Semester 1

Prof. Sean Carroll
Research Professor, Caltech

"Extracting the Universe from the Wave Function"

October - 2nd - 14:00 Safra Theatre

Quantum mechanics is a theory of wave functions in Hilbert space. Many features that we generally take for granted when we use quantum mechanics -- classical spacetime, locality, the system/environment split, collapse/branching, preferred observables, the Born rule for probabilities -- should in principle be derivable from the basic ingredients of the quantum state and the Hamiltonian. I will discuss recent progress on these problems, including consequences for cosmology and quantum gravity.

"Nano-structured Energy Materials for Photovoltaics and Li-ion Batteries"

Prof. Ullrich Steiner
Professor of Soft Matter Physics, Adolphe Merkle Institute
November - 6th - 14:00 Safra Theatre

Emerging photovoltaic devices and lithium ion batteries, while governed by different underlying physical principles, have similarities in their materials requirements.  Dye sensitised solar cells and, to some extent their successor, perovskite based solar cells rely on intricately structured metal-oxide electrodes at the surface of which charge separation occurs.  In lithium ion batteries, ion-intercalation into the near-surface regions of metal oxides determine the capacity of super-capacitors and batteries.  In both applications, the detailed interplay of nano- and micro-structures and the details of materials properties (e.g. their structural connectivity and conductivity) play an important role.  

"Reports from the front-line of Science Communication"

Dr. Steve Cross
Former Head of Public Engagement at UCL. Comedian, founder of "Bright Club" and "The Science Showoff".
December - 4th - 14:00 Safra Theatre

Science communication used to be boring people giving boring public lectures but all of that has changed. Steve Cross is a communicator and comedian working with researchers across the UK to find new ways to talk about their work, and helping them develop their skills and ideas. From comedy to drag, from community workshops to social media he'll introduce you to new ways of communicating science, engaging with audiences and sharing the things you love.

Semester 2

"A Learning Based Approach to Artificial Intelligence"

Dr. Shane Legg
Chief Scientist and Co-Founder, Google DeepMind
January - 29th - 18:00 Safra Theatre

Every day we see articles in the media about artificial intelligence: some are optimistic, some pessimistic, and some complain about the hype!  In this talk I will review some of the history of the field and in particular the shift in approach that has caused much of the recent wave of excitement.

"A Philosopher Looks at Multiverse proposals"

Dr. Jeremy Butterfield
Senior Research Fellow, Trinity College Cambridge
February - 26th - 18:00 Safra Theatre

Dr. Butterfield will survey three proposals that the Universe around us is one of a countless multitude. The first comes from philosophy. It says there are countlessly many logically possible worlds. The second and third come from physics. The second is the Everettian interpretation of quantum theory, and the third is the multiverse of modern cosmology. Despite their very different original motivations, these three proposals have various connections with each other.

"Transient astronomy: bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night"

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Visiting Professor of astrophysics, University of Oxford
March - 26th - 18:00 Safra Theatre

Until recently transient astrophysical events have been averaged out by the need for long exposure times. Better CCDs and better computing capabilities have opened up a new domain in astronomy - high-time resolution observations. This talk will describe some of the things we are finding or expect to find in this new area.

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