Recent Colloquia
Events
                   
 
 
 
   

24 February 2015

Gillian Brown
500 years of changing patterns in English English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation

Professor of English Language & Director of the Research Centre in English & Applied Linguistics, 1988-2004

I shall focus most of the discussion on the standard English used in the south east of England to describe very briefly some changes in the structures and use of English over the last 500 years. 

I shall begin with the most obvious area of rapid change - vocabulary, looking at claims made for Shakespeare's vocabulary, the development of dictionaries, the diversification of English overseas and what's happening in England today. 

Then we'll consider a few of the big grammatical changes which were already taking place in the 16th century, speculating on the reasons for some of these changes before moving on to note changes currently in progress, some of which appear to be influenced by current social attitudes. 

Since I'm particularly interested in sound change, I shall give a slightly more extensive overview of some major changes during the last 500 years before drawing attention to a few of the remarkable changes which are happening now.

Duration: 1h11

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1915869
for listening on your favourite device.


17 February 2015

Ian Goldberg
Privacy enhancing technologies: Combatting surveillance and censorship on the Internet

Associate Professor of Computer Science University of Waterloo, Canada
Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall

Over the last twenty years, the Internet has become an essential tool for global communication, collaboration, and commerce. Not all governments, however, are in favour of the free and open interactions that the Internet provides. 

In addition to the well-known Internet censorship performed by the so-called "Great Firewall of China" and other regimes, the revelations by Edward Snowden over the last year and a half have provided a glimpse into the level of mass Internet surveillance performed by Western governments. 

In this talk, we will look at some examples of such Internet surveillance and censorship, and give an overview of some of the more popular technologies used by journalists, activists, and others to safely communicate online without observation or interference.

Duration: 1h27

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1912481
for listening on your favourite device.


10 February 2015

Michael Loewe
A journey up-­stream, on the day  of the Qingming festival 

University Lecturer in Chinese Studies 1963-­90
Fellow, Clare Hall

In about 1100, Zhang Zeduan painted a horizontal scroll that took as its theme the return journey that a family made back to Kaifeng, capital city of the Northern Song Dynasty (960­‐1127). 

They had been paying their annual visit to clean and repair the graves of their ancestors after the ravages of winter. They passed through farmland and along the river, with its shipping and its wharves; they encountered traders, bargaining with customers for wares just unloaded on the river bank, or on the stalls packed together on the river’s bridge. They saw the watermen at work manoeuvring their ships; they made their way through one of the main gates of the city and passed along its streets until reaching part of its centre. 

Finally they came to a street where drovers were hustling their animals and carts at greater and greater speed, amid the ever‐busy work of a city. Not far away, artisans were repairing a carriage; ladies were intent on their shopping; one was consulting a doctor about the health of her baby. As a climax to the painting Zhang Zeduan showed a dignified official, surveying the scene and doubtless drawing up his report. 

This painting may be valued not only as the creation of an artist but also as a source of information for scholars and historians who are concerned with China’s social structure, economic practice and technological development. 

Michael’s talk is illustrated by high a resolution scan of Zhang Zeduan’s painting prepared by Denis Bilodeau. 

The painting is regarded as one of the great achievements of Chinese art.

Duration: 1h08

Please visit the following page for other resolution versions
and/or for downloading to your favourite device:
upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1909446


3 February 2015

Bruno Riccò
From Silicon to Graphene and Beyond
The hidden engine of change

Professor of Electronics, University of Bologna
Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall

We live in the Information society which is changing at unprecedented and ever increasing speed, shaped by the generation, transmission and processing of “information” (news, financial transactions, data, images, video, voice...). This is expressed in the digital language of computers, real engines of economic, social and cultural change.

The heart of computers is essentially made of silicon and after the ages of bronze and iron, the first and second industrial revolutions and the reign of steel, about sixty years ago we entered the age of silicon, present in all systems we use in our everyday life, often without knowing it.

Silicon development cannot last forever so two complementary strategies are being pursued at research level:  one seeks to extend the life of silicon technology, and the other seeks alternative materials. 

Graphene, a material discovered in the UK, is one of these alternatives.  

The results of this research will have a major role in shaping our future. New applications and markets are already in sight (domotics, wearable electronics, internet of things…) and others will certainly follow.  Endlessly?

Duration: 1h23

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1909418
for listening on your favourite device.


25 January 2015

Emilia Wilton-Godberfforde
The Liar in Seventeenth-Century French Comedy
Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Junior Research Fellow, Clare Hall

In this colloquium I will explore the phenomenon lying and its comic potential. As the playground taunt reminds us, lying is incendiary, subversive and theatrical. The image of the falsifier aflame also points to hell-fire, the punishment inflicted for fraud. When catching the liar out others can enjoy seeing the transparent and hyperbolic nature of the fibber and view the liar as an amusing spectacle.

I look at how lying is presented on the stage in seventeenth century France, reflecting its provocative and scandalous nature and also its flamboyant, histrionic and even explosive dimension. I examine the process whereby characters construct narratives designed to trick, misdirect, dazzle, confuse or exploit their interlocutors.

This talk should appeal not only to those working in French literature, cultural studies and intellectual history but to anyone interested in how we communicate or miscommunicate and why we continue to be fascinated by trickery and deception. 

Duration: 1h05

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1909406
for listening on your favourite device.


25 November 2014

Malcolm Longair
The Cavendish Laboratory, 1932 to 1953
Decline and Regeneration

Emeritus Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy, Emeritus Professorial Fellow and former Vice-President, Clare Hall.

1932 was an Annus Mirabilis at the Cavendish Laboratory, the culmination of the Laboratory's ascent to the forefront of physics associated with the names of Maxwell, Rayleigh, Thomson and Rutherford.

In 1938 Bragg inherited a laboratory in decline after its glory years.  Then WW2 intervened.  After the war, Bragg changed the direction of activity in the laboratory and within a decade it was back at the forefront of research with the discovery of the structure of DNA and the birth of radio astronomy.  How this came about reflects many changes in  research in physics, resulting from work during the war and the growth of Big Science.  

Duration: 1h27

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1854222
for listening on your favourite device.


18 November 2014

Hasok Chang
Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and Professorial Fellow of Clare Hall
Is Water H2O?

Every schoolchild knows that water is H2O, but it was a terribly difficult thing for scientists to learn originally. The story of the changing ontology of water is not only fascinating in itself, but illustrates many important points about the nature of scientific knowledge and its development.

The story begins with the Chemical Revolution of the late 18th century, in which Lavoisier’s proposal that water was a compound of oxygen and hydrogen flew in the face of the traditional wisdom that it was an element. 

Cavendish, who made the first synthesis of water from hydrogen and oxygen, thought that hydrogen and oxygen were merely water with an excess/deficit of ‘phlogiston’. Priestley also defended the phlogiston theory. Even the electrolysis of water in 1800 failed to produce a consensus. 

Agreement that water was a compound was not the end of the story. Dalton gave the formula of water as HO and it took half a century before consensus was reached on the modern set of atomic weights and molecular formulas, including H2O.

Duration: 1h25

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1850290
for listening on your favourite device.


4 November 2014

Boudewijn de Bruin
Professor of Financial Ethics, University of Groningen
Ethics and the global financial crisis
Why incompetence is worse than greed

To the extent that the global financial crisis is a moral crisis, most commentators have focused on banker bonuses, cultures of greed, shameless self-enrichment, and other forms of egoism.

But while unrestricted egoism is certainly a vice, I argue that the more serious moral defects in finance lie somewhere else. They have to do not so much with the motivation of bankers and other finance professionals, but rather with their competence, that is, with the way they gain and process information, make predictions, assess business risks, scrutinise clients, and so on.

Using insight from a recent strand in philosophy called ‘virtue epistemology’, I consider in this talk such things as the ethics of sub-prime mortgages, credit rating agencies and banks, as well as the way in which ‘epistemic virtues’ assisted in the uncovering of the Madoff scam.

Duration: 1h35

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1838684
for listening on your favourite device.


28 October 2014

Laurie Zoloth
Professor of Religious Studies, Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Northwestern University
The Ethics of Translation
Power, Exchange, and Hospitality

Translation may be described as the central act of scholarship across a variety of disciplines: science, theology, philosophy and ethics.  

Scholars are often told that a subsidiary task of all research is translation: basic science needs to  ‘translate’ its theory into understandable public language, or to ‘translate’ research into clinical applications, and theologians and philosophers are urged to ‘translate’ philosophy into political and social policy.  Bioethicists ‘translate’ abstractions into pragmatic decisions.

What ethical judgments are at stake when we ‘translate’?  What is ‘lost in translation’ when theories of human agency are translated into practices, or when practices are re-inscribed, or translated into theory?  Where does the power in the relationship reside? 

This short presentation will explore both the underlying moral appeals in play when scholars ‘translate’ and raise questions about how to do so with both justice and generosity. 

Duration: 1h44

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1835333
for listening on your favourite device.


14 October 2014

John Parker
Vice-President Clare Hall, formerly Director of the University Botanic Garden.
The man who knows everything
The life of John Stevens Henslow

Cambridge's pre-eminence in science began in the early 19th century. Prominent at the time was John Henslow who was a mathematician, naturalist, superb field geologist and founder member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society.  By 29, he was Professor of Mineralogy and of Botany.

He is remembered for recommending Darwin to the Beagle expedition but his research is less well known – the nature of species through understanding natural variation.  

His life changed dramatically in 1837 when he became Rector of a Suffolk parish. He refocused research to the application of science in agriculture and he helped poor labourers in the depressed agricultural economy of the time. His enduring legacy is his championing of universal education and the creation of the University Botanic Garden.

Duration: 1h17

An MP3 version of this audio file is available from upload.sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1821625
for listening on your favourite device.


 
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A Midnight Modern Conversation (Detail)
Engraving by
William Hogarth, 1732

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Updated  Nov.18.2014