Levitating Frogs and Video Games: Creative questions in science and faith

61eryzzt4pl-zoomCan faith actually feed into and help science? This was one of the questions that David Hutchings and Tom McLeish asked as they wrote their book, Let There Be Science, which was published by Lion last month. David is a physics teacher based in York, and he teamed up with Professor McLeish (author of Faith and Wisdom in Science) to explain what science is, what it’s for, and what does Christianity have to do with that. In today’s podcast (abbreviated transcript below) I asked David about the creative side of science. Continue reading

Questioning

Bensik Imeri, www.sxc.hu
© Bensik Imeri, http://www.sxc.hu

When I was a PhD student in Edinburgh I went to a church that was located conveniently next to a number of good pubs. A bunch of us used to pile into one of these establishments after the Sunday evening service. The ensuing conversation ranged from ‘Who are you?’ (it was a big church), to discussions of the sermon we had just heard and other more philosophical issues. One evening I sat next to a photography student, and when I introduced myself as a PhD student in genetics she said something along the lines of, ‘All those facts and figures are not for me, I’m an arts student.’  Rather than just moving on, which would have been infinitely easier, I tried to explain why I thought science was interesting. I think I won, but you can judge for yourself.

We started out by talking about textbooks. No matter how well written one of these tomes might be or how lavish its illustrations, it’s unlikely to make it onto anyone’s bedside table unless it’s exam time. I pointed out that textbooks have their place – a student has to get up to speed in their chosen field – but by the very nature of science they’re out of date before they’re printed. Continue reading

Wondering

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Bacteria. © Dez Pain, http://www.rgbstock.com/

What motivates a scientist to wrestle with difficult questions? Rhoda Hawkins is a lecturer in Physics at Sheffield University. She uses theoretical physics to tackle biological problems, and her main area of research is cell movement. I recently interviewed Rhoda about the role of wonder in both her research and her faith.

I find cell movement incredible. You’ve got a blob of squidgy material crawling across a surface or squeezing through a gap, and if it’s a white blood cell it might be doing something more complicated like chasing a bacterium. How is a relatively simple cell capable of doing such things? In my research group we try to model the cell and think about its physical properties. I collaborate with experimentalists – mainly biologists and other physicists, who test our predictions. I like hanging out in the lab every now and then to watch what the biologists are doing. If the experiment shows something different to what we predicted, then that might mean the model is wrong so we change the theory, and that informs new experiments. Maybe one day some of my work might be useful in medical applications: perhaps a better understanding of the immune system or the movement of metastatic cells in cancer. Continue reading