School of Mathematics

Sir Roger Penrose : Honorary Degree, Whittaker Colloquium and seminar

The University awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science to Professor Sir Roger Penrose OM, FRS, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford at the Graduation Ceremony in McEwen Hall at 10.30AM on Monday 10th July.

Sir Roger Penrose delivered the School's Whittaker Colloquium at 5PM on Monday 10th July in the Informatics Forum, Crichton Street:

"Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe" 

Abstract: "Can the following of fashion, blind faith, or flights of fantasy have anything seriously to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe? Surely not, but I shall argue that researchers working at the extreme frontiers of physics are as susceptible to these forces as anyone else, and that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes highly productive in physics, may be leading today's researchers astray in three of that field's most important areas—string theory, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. I argue a strong case that string theory veered away from physical reality when it found the need to posit six extra spatial dimensions, the fashionable nature of the theory clouding our judgments of its plausibility. With quantum mechanics, its stunning successes in explaining the atomic universe has led to an unquestioning faith that it must also apply to sizably massive objects. Yet, I argue that changes in the theory are needed. In cosmology, I claim that most of the current fantastical ideas about the origin of the universe fail to address certain central issues. Elements of fashion, faith, and fantasy have nevertheless also influenced my own work, as I shall briefly indicate."

Previous speakers in the Whittaker Colloquium have included Andrew Blake, Edward Witten, Janos Pintz, Endre Szemerédi, John Stillwell, Gunnar Carlsson, Robbert Dijkgraaf, Peter Kronheimer, Philip Maini, Richard Melrose, Terence Tao and Sir Christopher Zeeman.

In addition, at 11AM on Tuesday 11th July Penrose gave a mathematical physics seminar

"Conformal Cyclic Cosmology and the Nature of Dark Matter"

in G.8 Gaddum LT of the Neurosciences Building, 1 George Square.

Photo of Sir Roger Penrose (Laureate) and Sir Michael Atiyah (Laureator)

Video of Whittaker Lecture by Sir Roger Penrose, introduced by Sir Michael Atiyah

Video of conversation between Sir Michael Atiyah and Sir Roger Penrose