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I’ll be speaking at University Of Technology, Sydney on Monday 16th April, 2018. This event was originally pitched to me as another talk about the book, but has since evolved into a four-person discussion/debate event with Prof Peter Slezak (UNSW), Ian Bryce, and Mike Paget.

You may be familiar with Prof Slezak from his very interesting debates with Dr William Lane Craig, which I’ll put below. So I’m hopeful for an entertaining evening.

Time: April 16, Monday 6.30-8.30pm
Location: Aerial Function Centre @ Building 10, Level 7

This is a ticketed event – $10. I have no idea why. Book your tickets at Eventbrite.

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Peter Slezak videos …

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I’m in the final stages of moving to a new position at Western Sydney University, so prepare for some more blogging soon about new and important things!

In the meantime, I’ll be speaking in Sydney tomorrow (Monday 19th March, 2018) at the Macarthur Astronomical Society.

Title: The Universe and Entropy, or The top 10 things to do before the heat death of the universe.
Time: Monday 19th March, 2018 at 7:30pm
Location: The small lecture theatre in Building 30 (School of Medicine) at Western Sydney University, Campbelltown Campus.
Public entry is by a gold coin donation

For the last 13.7 billion years, a variety of complex structures have assembled in the universe we see around us: nebulae, stars, planets, galaxies and more. But the infamous “second law of thermodynamics” says that the universe is winding down, moving from order to chaos.

How do these ideas fit together? Is the story of the universe order from chaos, or chaos from order?

The audiobook of “A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos” has arrived!!!

Audible
Amazon
iTunes

It will be out on a few other platforms soon, we’re told by the distributor. We have absolutely no control over the price, by the way. It took an awfully long time to record and edit, but if you want to hear “A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos” read in a charming Welsh accent, you’re in luck!

A note for any would-be audiobook producers: the YouTube channel Booth Junkie is your new best friend. Mike DelGaudio‘s tips for recording and producing, in particular the setup of Reaper, compression, EQ, gates and such, are priceless.

I’ve recently had my first philosophy paper published! It appears in the European Journal for Philosophy of Science, and is available online for free here (I think – tell me in the comments if it doesn’t work). [Edit: It doesn’t. Here’s the preprint.] Here’s the abstract:

Fine-tuning in physics and cosmology is often used as evidence that a theory is incomplete. For example, the parameters of the standard model of particle physics are “unnaturally” small (in various technical senses), which has driven much of the search for physics beyond the standard model. Of particular interest is the fine-tuning of the universe for life, which suggests that our universe’s ability to create physical life forms is improbable and in need of explanation, perhaps by a multiverse. This claim has been challenged on the grounds that the relevant probability measure cannot be justified because it cannot be normalized, and so small probabilities cannot be inferred. We show how fine-tuning can be formulated within the context of Bayesian theory testing (or model selection) in the physical sciences. The normalizability problem is seen to be a general problem for testing any theory with free parameters, and not a unique problem for fine-tuning. Physical theories in fact avoid such problems in one of two ways. Dimensional parameters are bounded by the Planck scale, avoiding troublesome infinities, and we are not compelled to assume that dimensionless parameters are distributed uniformly, which avoids non-normalizability.

Geraint Lewis and I are off to the United Kingdom in October 2017 for a series of blockbuster events! Come and see our double act!

We’re still putting a few details together, so stay tuned – I’ll update this post as appropriate.

Wednesday 11th Oct: Cambridge,England

Title: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
Time:
 7pm
Address: High Cross
Madingley Road
Cambridge, CB3 0EL
Tickets are free and are available here.

Thursday 12th Oct: York, England

Title: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
Time: 7pm
Address: St Peter’s School York,
Clifton A19
YO30 6AB
More details here.
Tickets are free and are available here.

Friday 13th Oct: Armagh, Northern Ireland

Title: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
Time: 7pm
Address: Armagh Planetarium,
College Hill, Armagh
BT61 9DB
Northern Ireland

Monday 16th Oct: Leeds, England

Title: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
Time: 7pm
Address: Michael Sadler Building, Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre,
University of Leeds,
Leeds, LS2 9JT
More details here.

Tuesday 17th Oct: The Royal Institution, London, England

Title: A Fortunate Universe
Time: 7 – 8:30pm
Address: The Royal Institution of Great Britain
21 Albemarle Street
London, W1S 4BS
Tickets essential! Book here.

Wednesday 18th Oct: Lancaster, England

Title: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
Time: 6:30pm
Address: Cavendish Lecture Theatre,
Lancaster University, Bailrigg,
Lancaster, LA1 4YW
More details here.

Thursday 19th Oct: Durham, England

Title: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
Time: 7pm
Address: James Duff Lecture Theatre (PH8),
Physics Building,
Durham University
More details here.

Friday 20th Oct: Oxford, England

Title: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
Time: 8pm
Address: Oxford University Space and Astronomy Society
Martin Woods Lecture Theatre
20 Parks Rd,
Oxford OX1 3PU

This isn’t my usual topic on this blog, and I’ll get back to some science shortly, but I’ve got something on my mind.

For me, a good movie is one that I’m still thinking about long after I see it. I’m still trying to work out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – I’ve even read a philosophy book on it. Well, it’s been a month and I’m still find myself thinking about Whiplash. I need to debrief, so if you haven’t seen it, go watch it on Netflix now. There will be spoilers from here on.

Whiplash tells the story of a young jazz drummer, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), who is studying at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York. Despite being a first year, he is chosen for the big band of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher is a highly respected tyrant who controls his students with fear and intimidation. Neiman initially jumps through Fletcher’s hoops, but the two eventually clash.

In his commentary on the film in The New Yorker, Richard Brody calls the movie’s “very idea of jazz is a grotesque and ludicrous caricature. … [Neiman’s] life is about pure competitive ambition—the concert band and the exposure it provides—and nothing else. The movie has no music in its soul … “Whiplash” honors neither jazz nor cinema.”

I would like to offer the theory that the movie is not supposed to honour jazz, and the lack of music in its soul is no accident. That’s the point. Brody is close to the mark when he says that “the movie isn’t “about” jazz; it’s “about” abuse of power.” Here’s my case. Continue Reading »

I’ll be speaking around Sydney and Canberra over the next few weeks, so come along and hear about all things astronomy and the universe!

Penrith Observatory – Saturday, 6 May

Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Address: Western Sydney University, Penrith Campus, Great Western Highway, Werrington North. Instructions here. Map.
Cost: $18.00 Adult, $12.00 Child/Concession, $50.00 Family (2 adults + 2 children), Children under 3 years of age free. (Money goes to the upkeep of the observatory, not me.)
More details: here (including registration.)
Topic: The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Life
If we change the laws of nature just a little bit, our universe would be very different to what we have now. After explaining the science of what happens when you change the way our universe works, we will ask: what does all this mean?
Includes presentation, short 3D movie, tour of the dome area and viewing of the night sky through a range of telescopes (weather permitting).

Narrabeen Baptist Church – Thursday, 11 May

Time: 7.00pm – 8:30pm
Address: 13 Grenfell Avenue, North Narrabeen. Map.
Cost: Free.
More details: here.
Topic: Join us to hear from Sydney University Astrophysicist Dr Luke Barnes and then we’ll open the floor up for a question and answer time when you can draw on Dr Barnes’ knowledge. Please come with all questions you’ve ever wrestled through relating to science. It promises to be a great evening for all inquiring minds.

All are welcome.

Pint of Science, Sydney – Tuesday, 16 May

Time: 7.00pm – 9:30pm
Address: Bar Cleveland 433 Cleveland St, Surry Hills. Map.
Cost: $5.
More details: here, including tickets.
Topic: Three talks, which will aim to change the Laws of Physics. Prof. Jason Twamley will talk about quantum computing and the important of such research. Astrophysicist Dr. George Hobbs will explain what mysterious pulsars are and why their study is so important for physicists. After the break, cosmologist Dr. Luke Barnes will challenge our understanding of the physical constants to demonstrate that we live in a finely-tuned Universe. This event is for those aged 18 years and older.

St Mark’s Lecture – Wednesday, 24 May

Time: 7.30pm
Address: 1 Greenoaks Ave, Darling Point. Map.
Cost: Free.
More details: here.
Topic: Order and Cosmos. This is a new one. I’ll be talking about entropy and order in the universe.

Mount Stromlo Public Astronomy Night – Thursday, 18 August (with Geraint)

Time: 7pm
Address: Mt Stromlo Observatory Visitor Centre, Cotter Road Weston Creek, ACT. Map.
Cost: Gold coin donation. Booking is essential.
More details: here.
Topic: Mount Stromlo Observatory in conjunction with the Canberra Astronomical Society invite the Canberra community to attend our public observing nights of 2017. Come and see the rings of Saturn, the craters of the moon as well as beautiful star clusters and nebulae. On the night attendees will be taken on a ‘tour of the universe’ with talks by astronomers from Mt. Stromlo Observatory and observations on several telescopes.

Geraint Lewis is a Professor of Astrophysics, a cosmologist who studies dark matter, dark energy, and the evolution of the universe. Luke Barnes is a Postdoctoral Researcher who studies galaxy formation and the fine-tuning of the universe for life. They are authors of “A Fortunate Universe: Life in a finely tuned cosmos”, and work at the University of Sydney’s School of Physics.

Warm clothing is recommended. Southern Cross Stromlo will also be open to serve cold and warm drinks, snacks, and hot soup and roll. In the event of cloudy/bad weather, star gazing will be cancelled and the cafe may be closed (the talks will occur regardless of the weather). You can check out the weather at Mt Stromlo using our all sky camera.