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Quadruple Grant Success

29 July 2021

The Bristol Philosophy Department and Centre for Science and Philosophy are delighted to announce an amazing quadruple grant success:

Professor Samir Okasha has been awarded a European Research Council Advanced Grant, 1.6m euros, for a project entitled "Representing Evolution". 

The aim of this inter-disciplinary project is to examine how biological evolution has been represented - diagrammatically, linguistically and mathematically - in the scientific literature, past and present. A further aim is to examine representations of evolution in the context of pedagogy and science communication. The project will bring together philosophical ideas about the nature of representation and idealization, linguistic ideas about metaphor and analogy, psychological ideas about reasoning and cognitive biases, and educational ideas about science communication. 

Professor Richard Pettigrew has been awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, £135k, for a project entitled "Towards an accuracy-first approach to judgment aggregation”. 

In this project, he will bring a new methodology to bear on the problem of judgment aggregation, which asks how we should take the judgments of each member of a group and aggregate them to give the group’s judgment. How should we combine the conclusions of individual jurors to give the jury's verdict (List & Pettit 2004)? How should we aggregate the predictions of different climate models to give the ensemble’s prediction (IPCC 2010)? The new methodology is the accuracy-first approach to epistemology (Pettigrew 2016), and it promises to break a stalemate that arises from the axiomatic methodology that is currently used. It furnishes us with ways of measuring the accuracy of judgments, and explores how to produce collective judgments that are most accurate when measured that way. This project holds significant interest for policymakers and bodies, like IPCC, that produce summaries of expert judgment to guide policy decisions.

Dr. Karim Thébault has been awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, £128k, for a project entitled "Singularity Resolution and Explanation in Bouncing Quantum Cosmology”. 

According to one family of scientific models the universe started with a ‘big bounce’ rather than a ‘big bang’. In a bouncing cosmology the universe has different ‘branches’, each starting with a common very dense ‘past’ region but ending in distinct ‘futures’. Despite their apparent strangeness, bouncing models may plausibly correspond to our actual universe. Bouncing cosmologies appeal to quantum physics to ‘resolve’ the big bang singularity. That is, they rely on a novel and untested application of quantum theory to the very dense early universe to account for the breakdown of classical concepts at extremely small cosmological scales. In the proposed research he will apply tools from physics and philosophy to analyse the foundations of cosmic singularity resolution and rival explanations for the flatness and homogeneity of the universe. This highly original interdisciplinary work will lead to major new insights into the foundations of cosmology and scientific explanation.

Dr. Karim Thébault is also a Co-Investigator on a new Major Grant funded by the Templeton Foundation  £2.1m, for project entitled "Life on the Edge: quantum thermodynamics, quantum biology and the arrow of time”.

The project is being led by Professor Jim Al-Khalili and Dr Andrea Rocco from the University of Surrey and will focus on the fundamental nature of time and its potential to reveal both scientific and philosophical insights into the quantum world, including the exciting new field of quantum biology. Researchers will explore the complex interrelationship between the nature of time and the distinct ways in which the passage of time and quantum physics manifest in inanimate objects compared to living organisms – with potential implications for the understanding of life itself. The project brings together the disciplines of quantum physics, applied mathematics, computational chemistry, experimental molecular biology and the philosophy of science. 


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