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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 5 - May 2006

Those who visit the Faraday web-pages frequently may have noticed that a new Multimedia Folder has appeared plus an RSS symbol on the home page at The aim of the Multimedia Folder is to bring all our various Lectures, Discussions, Research Seminars and Course Lectures into one domain where they can be browsed, or searched by topic, according to need. Six different ways of down-loading will soon be on offer, giving you text (often with power point illustrations), audio or videostream. Text and audio are already available, video is on the way. In the meantime if you would like to order DVDs of lectures, seminars, or Course lectures, all at very reasonable rates, please e-mail Bekki Pearce at:   In addition the RSS facility (just click on it) provides a podcast so that new lectures or seminars are delivered straight to your computer as soon as they become available without you needing to do anything about it. Eventually we expect the Multimedia Folder to be populated by hundreds of different items, and indeed we have bought St. Edmund's College a new server to make this possible.

For the great majority receiving this newsletter, for whom personal attendance at our Research Seminars is impossible, these are now made available on the day that they are given in an audio version that you can listen to by simply going to the Research Seminars folder at and clicking in the relevant spot. So in fact you can hear the seminar on the same afternoon that we can. We have just had two fascinating seminars that are well worth listening to, one by Geoffrey Cantor, Professor of the History of Science at Leeds University, on the influence of Quaker thought on the development of science, and the other by Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Palaeobiology here in Cambridge, who spoke on the evolution of intelligence and the implications that this has for our theological understanding of the world.

A further highlight this past month was the CiS - Faraday termly public lecture by Professor Ronald Numbers from the University of Madison-Wisconsin, USA, held in the fine Howard Building in Downing College on one of those rare occasions in the merry month of May in Cambridge: a warm and sunny evening. Prof. Numbers spoke on the many mythologies that characterise the public understanding of the history of science and religion, many so embedded in our cultural heritage that we are barely aware of them. The lecture was followed, as usual, by a vigorous and extensive time of questions and discussion. The audio version of this lecture is available in the Multimedia Folder.

As usual Faraday Staff have been busy speaking in various contexts during the past month. On 8 May the largest lecture theatre in Southampton University was crowded with 430 people to hear Denis Alexander speak on the theme 'Beyond Belief? - Science and Religion in the 21st Century', a lecture that was followed by 40 minutes of vigorous questions and discussion. There is little doubt that the topic of science and religion is of great public and academic interest just at the moment, and this is reflected in the large numbers of people who generally attend events of this kind.

In this context, here is a date for your diary for any thinking of attending the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science which this year will be held in Norwich. On Tuesday, 5 September, at 2.0 p.m. there will be a panel discussion held at the University of East Anglia (UEA) as part of the BA Programme on the theme 'Science and Religion - the Contemporary Debate'. The panel will be chaired by Prof. John Durant, Head of the MIT Museum, Boston, and well known for his work in the UK on the public understanding of science. The Panel will comprise: Denis Alexander, John Bryant (Emeritus Professor of Cell Biology, Exeter University), Derek Burke (formerly Vice-Chancellor of the UEA), Ard Louis (Royal Society Fellow in Chemistry, Cambridge), and Bob White FRS.

With the Faraday Summer Course nearly full (but still one or two places left if you are hovering - act now!), our thoughts are turning to Faraday Short Course No 2 in September (Sep. 22-24). The programme is not quite finalised, but speakers include Sir John Houghton FRS (Government policies on global warming), David Cook (Moral Maze), Martin Redfern (BBC Science Programmes), Michael Banner (ethical issues in public policy) and Peter Moore (genetic engineering, reproductive technologies and public policy).  This is already a great line-up of speakers, with more to come, so early registration for this popular course is recommended. It will be held at Westminster College.

Best wishes,

Denis Alexander  [Director, Faraday Institute]   

Bob White  [Associate Director]