Professor George Ellis, a renowned cosmologist visiting on an Erskine Fellowship from the University of Cape Town, will present a series of eight lectures on big questions aimed at a broad audience, including cosmology, causality, life, aliens and the physics of the mind.
The lectures are open to everyone. The first will be held as a public lecture in C1, 8pm, Monday 8 August.
George has had a remarkable career. In addition to a string of academic honours, he also played a role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. (He was later awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa by Nelson Mandela.)
I got to know George on my first postdoc in Trieste, Italy, in 1988 at a time when things had got a bit too difficult for him in South Africa. For a few years George was based there at SISSA, an Institute directed then by Dennis Sciama, who in the 1960s had supervised George Ellis, Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, and a whole generation of experts in general relativity.
George and Stephen co-wrote one of the classic texts of the field, published in 1973. (George appears as fellow student in the film dramatisations of Stephen’s life, including the 2014 movie “Theory of Everything”.)
George is truly a deep thinker, always tackling the most fundamental questions. His lectures (full list available here) will be a fascinating journey crossing the boundaries of physics, biology and philosophy.
The lectures are largely self-contained, so that students and staff can choose ones that interest them without worrying about missing others.
Astrobiology topics will be hosted by Biological Sciences (August 11, 18); cosmology by Philosophy (August 10) and Physics and Astronomy (August 12, 19) and causality and complex systems by Philosophy (August 15, 17). The last topics are discussed in George’s new book How Can Physics Underlie the Mind?: Top-Down Causation in the Human Context.