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Peter Galison (Harvard University) on the notion of time

Wednesday, 18 March, 2015 - 14:00 to Wednesday, 18 March, 2015 - 15:30
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Building D
Promotion Hall (D2.01), Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussel
Public lecture

Peter GalisonPeter L. Galison is the Joseph Pellegrino Professor in History of Sciences and Physics at Harvard University. The central component of Peter Galison's work involves the exploration of twentieth century microphysics (atomic, nuclear, particle physics). In particular, he examines physics as a closely interconnected set of scientific subcultures: experimenters, instrument makers, and theorists. He also examines links between the history of science and neighboring fields - how, for example, historians of science and historians of art share methods and strategies. This talk is an account of this complex of time problems at the boundary of art, physics and history. It is a unique and enlightening view on the origin of time as we know it in the modern age.

Program: 

14.00-14.15h.: Introduction by Jean Paul Van Bendegem

14.15-15.00h.: Lecture by Peter Galison: 'Time of Physics, Time of Art'

In the standard picture of the history of special relativity, Henri Poincaré's and Albert Einstein's reformulation of simultaneity is considered a quasi-philosophical intervention, a move made possible by his disconnection from the standard physics of the day. Meanwhile, Einstein's engagement at the Patent Office (or Poincaré's in the Bureau of Longitude) enter the story as lowly day jobs irrelevant to fundamental work on the nature of the world. Yet, the all-too material and the most abstract notions of time cross in essential ways. This intersection, pushing on history, physics, and philosophy into a more associative-imaginative register, will be explored through William Kentridge's The Refusal of Time and through the film Galison is completing, Containment, about the struggle to contain radioactive materials for a time greater than that of human history.

15:00 - 15:30 Q&A

To watch Peter Galison's brief mini-lecture (11'24") on the genesis and wider cultural consequences of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, click here.

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