About

Jim_by_LeonI am a former railway telecommunications engineer, currently working at University College London, where I do lab demonstrating in the Physics & Astronomy Department. In 2013 I completed an MSc in History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the London Centre for HSTM (UCL/Imperial). I am currently studying for an MSc in the Philosophy of Science at LSE.

Research Interests:

Philosophy of Science:

I am interested in the philosophy of measurement in general, and in particular the question of how traditional philosophical methods and language, developed for a largely discrete universe in which statements could be either “true” or “false”, can be reconciled with how physical science is actually done, and with the inherent uncertainties. See my MSc dissertation for more on this.

My paper, Should physical laws be unit-invariant? has recently (Dec 2018) been published in Studies in the History & Philosophy of Science.

Beyond the philosophy of measurement, I am fascinated by the sometimes self-contradictory interpretations of special relativity that exist in the literature. See, for instance, this blog piece for more information. In 2017 I gave a talk on this topic – specifically, the relationship between mass and energy in SR – at the Integrated HPS conference in Nottingham.

History of Science:

I am the Secretary of the History of Physics Group.

My article on bubble chamber scanners at UCL in the 1960s was published in the October 2015 edition of Viewpoint (magazine of the British Society for the History of Science). I recently gave a talk on this project at a meeting of the History of Physics Group, and a longer article will follow in the Group’s newsletter later in 2019. My article A Brief History of Dimensions was published in the Group’s 2016 newsletter. I co-edited, with Malcolm Cooper, an e-book on the history of units, which arose out of a meeting I organised for the HoP Group in March 2016. The book, Precise Dimensions: A History of Units from 1791 to 2018, was published by IOPP in November 2017.

My Curriculum Vitae is here.

This Blog:
A word is necessary to explain the title of this blog. It is inspired by these lines from Philip Larkin’s poem Send No Money:

Sit here and watch the hail
Of occurrence clobber life out
To a shape no one sees …

It sums up Larkin’s self-image as an observer of the world, as opposed to a practitioner. I think my life has been a bit like that too – lately finding expression in the world of science and the philosophy of science, rather than in poetry, as it was for Larkin. (Although I have a “poetry” thread on this blog, the reader will be relieved to find that it consists entirely of poems by others, not by me.)

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