Professor Jim Al-Khalili - The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science

EPS Christmas Lecture 2014 2

On Wednesday 10 December 2014 the College welcomed almost 1,000 guests to hear Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Presenter of The Life Scientific on Radio 4, British scientist and author, deliver the inaugural EPS Christmas Lecture.  

In this lecture Jim selects some of his favourite scientific conundrums. From the Monty Hall problem to Olbers’ paradox about why the sky gets dark at night and from Schrödinger’s famous cat to those pesky demons of Maxwell and Laplace.

Throughout history, science has progressed by setting out to find answers to the most puzzling of questions: Can the second law of thermodynamics be broken? Is the Universe infinite? Do we have free will? Is it possible to travel back in time? In considering these puzzles the scientist is frequently confronted by a paradox – a statement or situation that is seemingly logically impossible. So exploring and resolving such perceived paradoxes can often be a way of deepening our scientific understanding. Jim Al-Khalili published his book Paradox: The nine greatest enigmas in Physics, an entertaining account of his exploration of many high profile scientific conundrums, in 2013. Here Jim delved further into these paradoxes and took audience questions.

The lecture has been recorded in full for your enjoyment:

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE

Jim Al-Khalili OBE is a professor of physics, author and broadcaster based at the University of Surrey where he currently teaches and also holds a chair in the Public Engagement in Science.

Professor Al-Khalili obtained his PhD in theoretical nuclear physics from Surrey in 1989 and spent two years as an SERC Postdoctoral Fellow at University College London before becoming a lecturer at the University of Surrey in 1991. He was appointed lecturer in 1992 and, in 1994, awarded an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship for five years, following which he reverted to a full time lecturer in the Department at Surrey. He was elected Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 2000 and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2001. In 2003, he was elected onto the Council of the British Science association and served for three years (2008-2011) as its executive vice president.

He is active as a science communicator and has written a number of popular science and history of science books, between them translated into over twenty languages. He is a regular presenter of TV science documentaries, including the Bafta nominated 'Chemistry: A Volatile History' and 'Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity and Order and Disorder', both for BBC4. He also presents the weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, 'The Life Scientific'. He provides expert advice for bodies such as the Royal Society, the British Council and the Department for Education, and served as vice president of the British Science Association. He is a recipient of the Royal Society Michael Faraday medal and the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal.

The EPS Christmas Lecture

The College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS) launched its Christmas lecture in December 2014. The annual series welcomes esteemed scientists and engineers to speak to staff, students, alumni and friends of the University to celebrate the enormous impact of scientific and engineering innovation.

The lecture series is organised by the College Alumni Relations team. More information on the EPS Community is available online here.