Geometry of Chaos: From Climate Change to Foundations of Quantum Physics

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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On Wednesday, 7 February as part of the Royal Irish Academy Discourse series, Professor Palmer will discuss Geometry of Chaos: From Climate Change to Foundations of Quantum Physics and argue that the three great theories of 20th Century physics are relativity theory, quantum theory and chaos theory. In making the case for the latter, he will focus on the fractal geometry of chaos and argue that its properties provide a geometric realisation of the great incompleteness/undecidability theorems of Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. I will then focus on two applications of the geometry of chaos.

The first is very applied and links to how humanitarian agencies are now able to be much more proactive in helping vulnerable societies at risk of extreme weather, which itself is becoming more commonplace due to climate change. The second is from fundamental physics and provides a novel way of understanding the conceptually difficult problem of entanglement in quantum physics, without violating the notion of realism or resorting to “spooky action at a distance”.

The Academy’s discourses are the oldest and most renowned series of talks in Ireland. The first discourses were presented in 1786. Historically, Academy discourses were the occasion reserved for the most distinguished academics to first reveal and discuss their work in public. The purpose of the Academy’s Discourse Series is to bring thought leaders to the Academy to discuss important contemporary issues.

Geometry of Chaos: From Climate Change to Foundations of Quantum Physics Speakers:

Tim Palmer is a Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford. His PhD was in general relativity theory, but he has spend much of his career researching the nonlinear dynamics of our climate system. Amongst other things he discovered the world’s largest breaking waves (in the stratosphere) and pioneered the development of probabilistic ensemble prediction techniques for weather and climate forecasting. In the last few years he has become active in the field of quantum foundations.

As well as a fellow of the Royal Society and Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy, Tim is an International Member of the US National Academy of Sciences. Amongst other awards he has won the Dirac Gold Medal of the Institute of Physics, and a Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. As Lead Author, he was officially recognised as having contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s award of Nobel Peace Prize.

Maria Baghramian MRIA is Full Professor of Philosophy at UCD School of Philosophy and Professor II at the Department of Philosophy, University of Oslo. Baghramian was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 2010 and to the Academia Europaea in 2021. She was, with the astrophysicist Luke Drury, the Principal Investigator of the Irish Research Council project “When Experts Disagree” and was the project leader of PERITIA – Policy, Expertise and Trust in Action – a Horizon 2020 multi-disciplinary research project funded by the European Commission (2020-2023).


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Steven Galvin

Exploring the Wonders of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin
Payroll & Bookkeeping- Manual and Computerised at Kerry College


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