Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Life, the Universe and Everything - Investigating God and the New Physics

The TOK department invited Andy Fletcher, historian, mathematician, linguist and philosopher to help us answer the big questions such as "What is the meaning of Life?" (42?!?) "Is there such as thing as spiritual knowledge?" (Spiritual IQ), "Does God exist?" (science seems to be showing evidence of a "higher intelligence") and "Do we have Free Will?" (Newton vs Einstein). The focus tried to examine the God / Science debate in a quantum universe by investigating infinity, determinism, mechanism, reductionism, quantum mechanics, chaos, fractals and the anthropic principle.

Friday's seminar for all 135 members of the senior class of 2010 ran from 11:30-4:30 pm with a break for lunch and annular eclipse watching. Saturday's session for the grade 11 full IB students and many other interested students and staff ran from 1-6 pm and included many wonderful questions and mind blowing moments. Our students (and teachers) may never be the same again. Special thanks go to Mr Kaisar Dopaishi who not only made this fantastic event possible but has started off 2010 with many mind expanding opportunities for the entire KIS community.

from his website: http://tokseminars.com/

The answer is not, after all,

Assumptions made about the nature of the universe in Isaac Newton's day continue to drive not only today's methodology of scientific inquiry but the direction and ultimately the interpretation of, as Douglas Adams called it, Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Since 1991, Andy Fletcher has been giving classroom seminars in public (state) schools in the US, the UK, and Canada, and in private and international schools around the globe, more than 100 schools altogether. Interactive, discussion-oriented, multi-media presentations challenge the brightest of students to re-examine the base points of scientific inquiry.

The Infinite Universe -- It was a vital ingredient to nature and physics, something that Einstein himself refused to abandon though it was his own theories that put an end, and a beginning, to Infinity...

Determinism -- The brilliant French mathematician La Place claimed that given the speed and location of every particle, he could predict the rest of history. But curiosity could neither kill nor not kill Schroedinger's Cat...

Mechanism -- Does the universe run like clockwork? Are humans nothing more than complicated machines? The lowly butterfly and its effect made Chaos out of Order...

Reductionism -- Are we nothing more than the meaningless sum of random parts? Things turn out to be a bit more Complex than that as we get Order out of Chaos...

At home in the universe -- Does the universe exist to produce mankind? Do we "observe" it into being, the very act of observation that which keeps the universe moving along? Why did Einstein wander around the yards of Princeton wondering why the moon wasn't smeared all over the sky?

Take your classes on a "journey to the center of the galaxy to go windsurfing with dear old dad", as it was put in the film Contact.

Relativity. Space-time dilation. The Singularity and what observed it into Big Bang.

Quantum Mechanics. Schroedinger's Cat, quantum tunneling, the Bose-Einstein Condensate, and what really happens to a quantum tree when it falls in a quantum forest.

Jurassic Chaos, the butterfly effect, the Challenger Space Shuttle, and 9/11.

Fractals and the doorway into Complexity via the Mimic Octopus and the Blister Beetle.

Finally, the Anthropic Principle and Freeman Dysan's claim that "in some sense, the universe must have known we were coming."

Your students may never be the same. With gratitude and appreciation of our non-dualistic possibilities...
Bryan Plymale
TOK teacher