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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

The Light Year Public Lecture Series - Invisibility: a Cultural History

17th February 2014, 18:15 to 19:15, Kingsley Barrett Room, Calman Learning Centre, Durham University, South Road, Dr Philip Ball, Science Writer


 

Abstract 

Scientists have today worked out how to manipulate the path of light rays so as to render objects invisible. This is sometimes said to be the realization of an old dream; but the stories that we have told about invisibility are not stories of a technical capability but of power, desire, concealment, morality and corruption. What are these old tales of invisibility really saying, and how has the scientific understanding of light influenced them? From a history of invisibility that encompasses Plato, magic, spiritualism and Victorian physics, H. G. Wells, cinematography and the emerging new science of metamaterials, Philip Ball will show that ideas of invisibility are, like all ideas rooted in legend, ultimately parables about our own hopes and fears.

 

Biography

Philip Ball is a freelance science writer. He worked previously at Nature for over 20 years, first as an editor for physical sciences and then as a Consultant Editor. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.


The venue for this series is the Calman Learning Centre. Directions can be located at here. Alternatively on the University map, the CLC is denoted at building number: 43.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.




Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.