Mass at the Royal Institution

28 September 2017

Everything around us is made of ‘stuff’. But what is it, exactly?

Jim Baggott explores our changing understanding of the nature of matter, from the ancient Greeks to the development of quantum field theory and the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Jim is an award-winning science writer. He trained as a scientist, completing a doctorate in chemical physics at the University of Oxford in the early 80s, before embarking on post-doctoral research studies at Oxford and at Stanford University in California. He was a lecturer in chemistry at the University of Reading for 5 years before leaving academia to join the business world.

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Do We Know What the Universe is Made Of?

26 September 2017

What does material substance consist of? Jim Baggott, author of Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields, argues that whilst modern physics has given us ways of dealing with the question, it has not actually provided the answer.

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Where Physics Meets Philosopy

27 June 2017

Communicating physics is difficult, partly because the underlying ideas can be hard to grasp, even for experts. Popular science writer, Jim Baggott, talks us through some of his favourite physics books.


Jim Baggott on Mass

19 October 2016

In this short Hay Levels video, Jim Baggott talks about the relationship between matter and mass, the subject of his next book Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields, to be published by Oxford University Press in June 2017.

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Status Anxiety: All ‘Theories’ Are Not All the Same

3 May 2016

Much of the recent debate about string theory and the scientific method derives from the mis-use or mis-interpretation of the word ‘theory’. Scientific theorizing follows a logical progression from idea to hypothesis to theory, and I argue that a fully-fledged scientific theory must be grounded in empirical data. In the absence of empirical data, non-empirical arguments will suffice to choose between rival hypotheses, but they cannot ‘confirm’ theories. A lack of clarity on the status of the ‘string hypothesis’ in many popular presentations has created the misleading impression that this is regarded as a valid and accepted scientific theory, threatening to undermine public trust in science and scientists. A ‘Munich Declaration’, developed by participants at the recent conference ‘Why Trust a Theory’, is proposed as a potential way forward.


Can We Talk? Language, Society and Consciousness

3 December 2015

The story of human evolution does not end with the appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa 200,000 years ago, or with the subsequent migrations to Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. Our curiosity about our origins demands that we try to explain why it is this particular species that goes on to dominate the planet.

This is the twelfth (and last) in a series of posts on the Oxford University Press TUMBLR site.



Origins with Milt Rosenberg on WCGO Chicago

27 November 2015

Jim Baggott is an influential science writer. A scientist himself by training, he has turned toward a career in the commercial world and is also a successful author who popularizes complex scientific theories by making them, well, understandable.

His latest, Origins: The Scientific Story of Creation, is a concise history of how we got here, how life has evolved on this planet, and where life may be heading next. Baggott joins us here for an hour. We only wish that we’d had more time.



Who Made the First Stone Tools?

26 November 2015

The evolutionary path from early primates to Homo sapiens is difficult to trace with any accuracy and continues to be hotly debated. But there are a couple of important signposts in the fossil record. The transition to bipedalism – upright walking – is suggested by analysis of limb bones of the genus Australopithecus and rather spectacularly confirmed by the Laetoli footprints, determined to be 3.6 million years old.

This is the eleventh in a series of posts on the Oxford University Press TUMBLR site.