Two respected physicists and accomplished authors will visit the Texas A&M University campus next week to present their views on faith, science and society as part of the university’s 18th annual Trotter Endowed Lecture Series.
Dr. Andrew Steane, Professor of Physics and a Fellow of Exeter College at the University of Oxford, and Dr. Alan Lightman, Professor of the Practice of the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will deliver a joint public lecture Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. in the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building Auditorium. No tickets or RSVPs are required for the presentation, which is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception in the ILSB foyer area.
Steane’s talk, “Science and Humanity,” will draw from his 2018 book, Science and Humanity: A Humane Philosophy of Science and Religion, to explore how scientific explanation functions as well as how it connects with and relates to other aspects of knowledge, such as the subjects we call the humanities, along with questions of justice, ethics, value and purpose.
Lightman’s talk, “Science and Religion: Two Truths or One?” relates to his own 2018 book, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, as he probes life’s tensions and questions between the material and immaterial, particularly with regard to the way science and religion differ in their kinds of knowledge and how such knowledge is obtained.
Steane earned both his bachelor of arts in physics (1987) and D.Phil. in physics (1991) from Oxford, where he was a Junior Research Fellow of Merton College (1990-1992) and an Oxford-based Royal Society University Research Fellow (1995-1999) after completing postdoctoral study at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris (1993-1994). During the past two and a half decades at Oxford, he has been a Fellow by Special Election (1996-1999) and a lecturer in physics (1998-1999) of St. Edmund Hall as well as a University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in Physics of Exeter College (1999-2002) prior to being awarded the title of Professor in 2002. He also has been a guest researcher at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1996) and a visiting professor at both the University of Innsbruck (1999) and the University of Ulm (2006).
Steane’s experimental and theoretical research interests center on fundamental questions in physics, particularly the nature of quantum mechanics and its intersection with classical information theory. He co-discovered quantum error correction, introducing a class of codes now called Calderbank Shor Steane (CSS) codes, for which he was recognized with the Institute of Physics’ Maxwell Medal and Prize in 2000. The simplest such code, called the Steane code, is a perfect CSS code capable of correcting arbitrary single qubit errors. His research group, co-led by David Lucas, also pioneered the ion trap approach to quantum computing.
In addition to two undergraduate physics textbooks and his 2018 Science and Humanity work, Steane has authored two popular books, The Wonderful World of Relativity: A Precise Guide for the General Reader and Faithful to Science: The Role of Science in Religion, both published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 2011 and 2014, respectively. He has given numerous public lectures and school demonstrations in physics and taught Sunday school groups for many years.
Lightman, a novelist and essayist in addition to a physicist and educator, is one of the first MIT faculty to hold a joint appointment in both the sciences and the humanities, an intersection he is renowned for exploring in both his thinking and writing. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1974 and was a postdoctoral fellow in astrophysics at Cornell University (1974-1976) prior to beginning his independent academic career as an assistant professor at Harvard University (1976-1979). He then spent 10 years as a senior research scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics before joining the MIT faculty in 1989.
After a 25-year career in theoretical physics and astronomy probing such topics as accretion disks, stellar dynamics, relativistic plasmas, and the weak equivalence principle, Lightman transitioned his full focus to science-related literary endeavors. From 1991 to 1997, he headed MIT’s Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies and chaired a committee that in 2001 instituted a communication requirement for all undergraduates in each of their four years. He has authored dozens of books on the human implications of science, including the 1992 international bestseller Einstein’s Dreams that has been translated into more than 30 languages and adapted into multiple independent theatrical and musical productions worldwide, most recently in 2019 as a play at the off-Broadway Prospect Theater in New York. His 2000 novel, The Diagnosis, was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Lightman’s career works span essays and fables (The Accidental Universe) as well as advanced textbooks (Problem Book in Relativity and Astrophysics). His essays, articles and stories also have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, Nautilus, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. In addition to holding six honorary doctorates, he is founder and director of the Harpswell Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance a new generation of women leaders in Southeast Asia.
The Trotter Prize and Endowed Lecture Series seeks to illuminate connections between science and religion, often viewed in academia as non-overlapping if not rival world views. The series was established in 2001 by Dr. Ide P. Trotter Jr. ’54 and Luella H. Trotter with a matching contribution from ExxonMobil Corp. to honor Ide P. Trotter Sr., former dean of Texas A&M University’s Graduate School, and to recognize pioneering contributions to the understanding of the role of information, complexity and inference in illuminating the mechanisms and wonder of nature.
For more information on the event, contact Jennifer Holle in the College of Science Dean’s Office at (979) 845-8817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the history of the Trotter Lecture Series and past presenters, visit https://science.tamu.edu/trotter/.
Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or email@example.com