Saturday, August 30, 2014

Isaac Newton Institute, Winter, Sen and Polkinghorne

Isaac Newton Institute
Back from a fascinating few days in Cambridge as a Visiting Fellow at the Isaac Newton Institute.

I vividly remember the first time I met Michael Atiyah. He was Master of Trinity and I was dining on High Table and I asked him what was his biggest strategic problem. He looked at me with a twinkle.  "Money." he said. "We have far too much money. We don't know what to do with it."  Well one of the great things they did with it was to set up the Isaac Newton Institute and I was delighted to be invited to be a Visiting Fellow as part of their programme on systemic risk.

The first day I dined on Trinity High Table at the invitation of the present Master because I have to give the Speech at the Annual Gathering for those of us who Matriculated (ie started at Trinity) in 1972, 1973 and 1974. There are of course many, many people in this cohort far more distinguished than I (5 FRSs, 10 FBAs, the Archbishop of Canterbury at least two Ks and one Peer) but I wanted to get an idea of what Greg expected. Dinner was especially delightful because Amartya Sen was sitting on my right and Emma Rothschild was opposite me. It was great to catch up with them: Amartya in super form and later this year he will be giving a course in Harvard Medical School - last academic year he was lecturing on the Philosophy of Mathematics (some notes from a co-lecturer are here)!  I also met Sir David Baulcombe who says he's looking at hybrids and why some are so much more successful than their parents.

Lots of very good people at the workshop including my old friend Robert MacKay and it stimulated a lot of interesting thinking. One of the US visitors wants to write a paper with me. I was also delighted to meet a young lady* attending the sessions who was about to go up to Trinity to read Maths - clearly someone to watch!

I also managed to have tea with John Polkinghorne and it was great to catch up with him and listen to some of his wisdom. We discussed how we would revise Questions of Truth for a second edition. The technical appendices could be updated helpfully - inflation is looking more plausible and John rather likes the idea at least in it's non-chaotic/eternal form.

* Khyla Kadeena-Miller

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