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Lecture: Peter Galison, Harvard University

January 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Introductory Lecture The Geologic Turn

As they are usually understood, the designations “nuclear wasteland” and “pure wilderness” are opposites; when they converge we often describe this circumstance as “paradoxical” or “ironic.” Taking stock of plans to handle lands that will remain saturated with radionuclides for tens of thousands of years, I argue that the categories of wastelands and wilderness are far from dichotomous; that that their relation is far more intriguing than a binary of purity and corruption. Removing parts of the earth in perpetuity –for reasons of sanctification or despoilment–alters a central feature of the human self, presenting us in a different relation to the physical world, and raising irreducible questions about who we are when land can be classified, forever, as not for us humans.

Peter Galison is Joseph Pellegrino University Professor and Director, Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, at Harvard University. The central component of Peter Galison’s work involves the exploration of twentieth century microphysics (atomic, nuclear, particle physics). In particular, he examines physics as a closely interconnected set of scientific subcultures: experimenters, instrument makers, and theorists. In How Experiments End (Chicago, 1987), he examined the ways in which experimenters come to the decision that they have an effect, not an artifact of the apparatus or environment. What role does theory play in the establishment of data reduction strategies, in triggering, or in the experimental set-up itself? How do large groups decide something is real? More recently, he has been interested in the long-standing competition between image-producing instruments such as bubble chambers, cloud chambers, and nuclear emulsions on one side, and the ‘logic’ devices such as counters, spark chambers, and wire chambers on the other. Professor Galison is now turning to a history of postwar quantum field theory, in which he views QFT as a “trading zone” between different domains of physics (e.g. particle cosmology, mathematics, condensed matter physics). For Galison’s recent interview with Smudge Studio on secrecy and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Carlsbad, New Mexico, please visit:http://fopnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/galison/

More information available at: http://anexact.org


January 10, 2012
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm