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Inside the world of outsider scientists


5 September 2012

Explore 'outsider physics' with Margaret Wertheim.
Explore 'outsider physics' with Margaret Wertheim.

The acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim will discuss her new book about the world of "outsider physicists", people with little or no scientific training who nevertheless have developed their own alternative theories of the universe.

In July this year the world went 'Higgs mad' when scientists at CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a particle that plays a crucial role in the Standard Model of physics. If the Higgs hadn't been found, major parts of theoretical physics would have to be rethought. Read about the University of Sydney's involvement in the Higgs boson discovery.

Even now its existence has to be confirmed. Yet with or without the Higgs, a growing number of dissident theorists believe the very foundations of physics are in need of renovation. Since CERN's announcement 'outsider physicists' have gathered at three international conferences to discuss alternative theories of reality. Many of these outsiders have little or no scientific training, yet all are driven by a conviction that they can unlock the true secrets of the universe.

Their efforts constitute a scientific parallel to 'outsider art' and a radically other conception of how science might be conducted. In this Sydney ideas talk, Wertheim, whose new book is titled Physics on the Fringe, will discuss 'outsider physics' as a social and cultural phenomenon. What are the similarities between outsider science and outsider art? What are the differences? And why does the subject matter in the context of science today? Her talk will be hosted by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney Physics Foundation.

Margaret Wertheim is a science writer with degrees in physics and mathematics. She has written for the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Guardian, and is the author of Pythagoras' Trousers and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace. She founded the non-profit Institute For Figuring, through which she organised the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project, a touring exhibition at the intersection of science and art.


Event details

What: Physics on the fringe and what mainstream science can learn from outsiders 

When: 6pm, Thursday 6 September (talk will be followed by a book signing)

Where: Lecture Theatre 101, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions 

Cost: Free event, registration required

Book online now 


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Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au