FiSch blog

A joined-up cosmos for geniuses?

Recently I wrote about my impression of a predominance of religious worldviews and practices among the most celebrated mathematicians.  I concluded by indicating that I wouldn't be surprised if religious worldviews were more conducive to great advances in maths and other disciplines, because of the way that faith and imagination are involved in discovery.  Today I'd like to explore some slightly more specific ideas about how that might work.  This is very tentative, largely because I'm clearly not one of those mathematical geniuses myself!  But I wan

A poem for a new year

As 2019 has come to a close, and a new decade is beginning, I have been thinking about a poem by Emily Dickinson - one of my favourites, for its enigmatic imagery and its expression of longing: 'I did not reach Thee'. Here is the first stanza (you can read the whole thing here):

I did not reach Thee
But my feet slip nearer every day
Three Rivers and a Hill to cross
One Desert and a Sea
I shall not count the journey one
When I am telling thee.

On the seventh day of Christmas

dinner table awaiting guests

I've always felt sad at the passing of Christmas Day: at how quickly the world moves on to Boxing-Day sales, extinguished fairy lights, discarded fir trees and raucous New-Year revelries.  Perhaps it's partly nostalgia, but I yearn for those past times when the twelve days of Christmas were celebrated in full.  For me, Christmas is worth lingering on, because it's a sign of the world to come.

Everlasting Father

One of my favourite pieces of Christmas music is ‘For unto us a Child is born’ from Georg Friderich Händel’s Messiah. I have loved it since I was a child, touched by its bouncing joy and the intricacy of its polyphonic choral writing, with lines appearing and disappearing like needles through the musical fabric, aligning with each other for a few ‘stitches in time’ before one vanishes to reappear a moment later in a different hue. As a music historian, I am enchanted by the majesty of Händel’s choral setting, but its glorious lyrics are what I love most.

On the sources of genius

Portraits of Euler, Gauss, Cantor, Ramanujan, Noether, Hilbert, Godel

[Portraits of (L-R) Euler, Gauss, Cantor, Ramanujan, Noether, Hilbert and Gö​del from the public domain]

In teaching elementary probability and statistics to undergraduates, I've been reading about some of the great mathematicians who are commemorated in the names of functions and constants. This has led me to ponder the role of religious worldviews in mathematical genius, and it's on that topic that I'd like to share a few thoughts today.  I hope that some readers here may have further knowledge and ideas to share.

Intellectual servanthood

Image: 'Jesus Washing Peter's Feet' by Ford Madox Brown (1821–1893). Image freely available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jesus_washing_Peter%27s_feet.jpgImage slightly cropped.

Intellectual servanthood

‘Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”’ (Mark 9:35)

Christ, the Academy and the (Post-)Modern World

Coming up in two weeks' time is the next in the series of Forming A Christian Mind conferences in Cambridge.  Entitled "Christ, the Academy and the (Post-)Modern World: Approaching Your Subject in the Light of the Gospel", this event is slated as the first of three conferences for this academic year.  The keynote speaker is David McIlroy, Visiting Professor in Law at SOAS (University of London), who will speak on ‘The Narratives of Modernity and the Christian Story’ and ‘Christianity and the Modern Conception of Rights’.  At the end of the day there's a plenary talk by Daniel Hill,

In and out of the university

A major challenge for younger academics is the increasing prevalence of both fixed-term contracts and institutional mobility.  A year ago I wrote about moving from a university to a business environment, and now I'm back in a university again, with another shift in my research area.  So I thought it might be helpful to share the story of these transitions and what I've learned through them. 

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A Student's Prayer

Today I want to share a prayer that has become a regular part of my working life. At the Scriptorium here in Oxford, this is one of the prayers we say together at the beginning of every working day. It's usually attributed to the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas; perhaps it will be helpful for you to use as you seek God's help in your work today. 

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