Merton Presentations 2017


Week 3, Saturday: Deadline for titles and abstracts submissions. 

Week 6, Tuesday (Fitzjames 1) and Wednesday (Ian Taylor Room) 16:00-18:00 : Rehearsals. 

Tuesday Wednesday
16:00 - 16:30Kirill Sasin Pablo Espinoza
16:30 - 17:00Uros Ristivojevic Joey Li
17:00 - 17:30Max Plummer Oliver Paulin
17:30 - 18:00Matthew Davis

Week 8, Tuesday 16:00-19:00 (Ian Taylor Room): Final presentations.

Titles and Abstracts


Do we ever "act on instinct"?

We seem to be familiar with the concept of instinct and how it affects our everyday lives. We sometimes even say that we act on instinct, trying to justify our behaviour in response to a particular stimulus by blaming our inability to fully control our own actions on this still somewhat arcane biological concept. However, in doing so we are wrong almost one hundred percent of the time. In my talk I will attempt to clarify what instincts are, trace evolution of insticts by exploring how they manifest themselves in other species, show how little of them we still have, and what we have gained instead.


The Shockley-James paradox

When Einstein proposed the special theory of relativity, proper understanding of the new theory led to the solution of many paradoxes caused by the inconsistency between Newton's mechanics and Maxwell's electromagnetism. One of these paradoxes is the Shockley-James paradox which resolution requires careful relativistic analysis of the conservation of the linear momentum. A fairly simple system of charges exhibits an unexpected behaviour. Namely, if a point charge is placed near the magnetic dipole of changing magnetisation, an electric force acting on charge will be induced, but there is no reaction force on the magnet. In this presentation, I will analyse this paradox and show its solution.


Fusion Power

Since first theorised in the 1930’s, nuclear fusion as a means of energy production has remained a highly attractive - though elusive - prospect. In this presentation, I will discuss the motivations for this technology and the important role it may play in the future of energy. I will then examine the conditions necessary for nuclear fusion (and, more importantly, ignition) to occur and explore some of the ways that this incredible feat might be accomplished, focussing in particular on magnetic confinement reactors. Finally, I will talk briefly about some of the recent developments in the field as well as what is planned for the future of fusion power.


Summing Divergent Series: The Magic and Dangers of Infinite Sums

The sum of the natural numbers from one to infinity is equal to minus a twelfth.

Well not exactly.

It's very true that the sequence of natural numbers from one to infinity is a divergent series with no sum, but what if we could extend our idea of a sum to encompass all series not just convergent ones? Like the analytic continuation of a complex holomorphic function so too can we extend the domain of sums. There exists a perfectly rigorous mathematics of "generalised sums", extensions of the idea of summation to divergent sums. In this talk I will introduce some examples of generalised summation techniques, such as Cesàro and Abel Summation. We'll also take a look at Ramanujan's mysterious "constant of the sum" which, incidentally, is equal to minus one twelfth for the infinite series of natural numbers. If time permits, I'll also show how these generalised summation techniques are not just useless abstractions of armchair mathematicians, but actually useful for Physics. Specifically in producing correct results for theoretical predictions of the Casimir Effect. 

Be prepared for an enlightening glimpse at the magnificent beast we call infinity.


Have I freely chosen to do this presentation?

If free will is incompatible with determinism, then the position and momentum of any object, and the action of every being at any infinitesimal point in time is predetermined by the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe and I have not freely chosen to do this presentation. If we conclude that we don’t have free will and all of our actions are predetermined, then no moral responsibility can be assigned to our actions. I will argue that the alternate possibilities theory must be slightly modified such that moral responsibility can still be assigned despite an individual having had no alternate possibilities. Instead, for an individual to not be morally responsible for an action, not only must they not have had an alternate possibility, but had there been an alternate possibility available, they would have in fact chosen that action, over the action that they were predetermined to make. That is, were there an alternative universe with different laws of nature and different initial conditions, in which someone like me were faced with a similar situation as me, then they would choose that alternate action available.


Physics beyond physics: economic Bose-Einstein condensation and other interesting concepts

I will start by giving an overview of econophysics, and its relation to traditional physics and economics.  I will then demonstrate an example by showing how statistical mechanical methods can be applied to the economy.  I show a model in which energy levels represent levels of revenue, and firms are represented by particles.  The case of perfect competition corresponds to indistinguishable particles (the case of monopolistic competition corresponding to distinguishable particles), so the firms follow a Bose-Einstein distribution.  A macroscopic number of firms may condense into the lowest energy level (i.e. go bankrupt), leading to an economic crisis.  If time allows I will also talk about the application of Bose-Einstein condensation to other complex systems such as biological systems.  Lastly, I will return to a bigger-picture perspective and make a few final general comments.  Does applying physics to economics make sense, particularly as one of the criticisms of mainstream economics is that it is already too mathematical?  If econophysical theories turn out to be true, would it be just a mathematical curiosity, or could it reveal something deep about the nature of our universe?


The Rise of Sport Analytics

Sport analytics allows sporting competitors to utilise both real time and historic data to provide information which can be used to gain a competitive advantage. As sport science continues to lead people to look for ever finer margins of improvement, sport analytics is becoming increasingly commonplace in a wide range of sports. Continued technological advances allow more data about a team or individual’s performances to be gathered than ever before, and allow the development of the computing capacity required to process this data. In this talk I will give a brief outline of what sport analytics is, and will introduce how it is being used in certain sports to improve performance in several different ways. I will also aim to outline the profound effect the rise of sport analytics has had on the approach towards how to make improvements in sporting performance, in an increasingly professional sporting world, and also examine the limitations of this approach, as well as what the future may hold.