Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Pollock Lecture 2006

"Can the physicists' description of reality be considered

Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Josephson, Cambridge University

Friday 17 March 2006, 6.30 pm
Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Sydney University

The Pollock Lecture is jointly organised about every three years by the Royal Society of NSW and the University of Sydney. It is given in memory of James Arthur Pollock who was Professor of Physics at Sydney University 1999-1922. This year the lecture was in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Physics and was delivered by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Professor Brian Josephson of Cambridge University. It was to have been held in the Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre at Sydney University but the audience of over 400 so far exceeded expectations that the venue was shifted to the larger Auditorium. A group of about 30 went on to dinner with Professor Brian Josephson and his wife Carol.


In his book Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge, Niels Bohr argued that, because of the uncertainty principle, quantum methodology might not be applicable to the study of the ultimate details of life. Delbruck disagreed, claiming that biosystems are robust to quantum disturbances, an assertion that is only partially valid, rendering Bohr's argument still significant even though normally ignored. The methods of the quantum physicist and of the biological sciences can be seen to involve two alternative approaches to the understanding of nature that can usefully complement each other, neither on its own containing the full story. That full story, taking into account the biological/cognitive/semiotic perspective, may involve anomalies that are incomprehensible from the standard physicist's point of view. It provides a fascinating challenge for the future of physics.


Professor Brian Josephson FRS is Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge. While a graduate student he predicted that currents could tunnel with no resistance through an insulating barrier between two superconductors, for which prediction he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973. Since then he has been mainly concerned with the question of the logic of brain functioning, as well as being interested in a number of topics that have become the subject of "pathological disbelief". He was one of the instigators of the web site, which publicises cases of the bureaucratic censorship of research that does not fit in with conventional thinking.

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