RI Christmas Lectures – A Closer Look


I have just watched the first of this year’s (2013) Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

The subject is “Life Fantastic” and the presenter, Dr. Alison Woollard, is one of the most proficient and well-prepared of recent years.

If you are at all interested in biology, or modern science in general, then I can recommend that you tune in for the rest of the short series, and try to review the first episode on the BBC iPlayer.

I don’t know if this specific flat iron for natural hair is available to my US visitors, but I imagine the BBC will ship them in some form to North America; and they are available online.

I always like to catch these Xmas lectures each year, whatever the subject matter. I realize that nowadays they are aimed primarily at children, but they often contain some recent data on the latest advances in the particular scientific field of discussion, and can therefore be of interest to those ‘in the know’ as well as novices.

As each series begins, I always enjoy the tingle of realization that these lectures are being broadcast from what is arguably the home of science. This same lecture hall, of the Royal Institution in London, is where the great Sir Isaac Newton first stood when he expounded his laws of motion and gravity. Where the earliest of serious scientists such as Halley, Wren and Hooke met, with the blessing of King Charles II, in the early years of his reign. By making science acceptable, this liberal monarch, and the extraordinary thinkers who established this great institution, laid the foundation for the scientific enlightenment, and the technological advances which have created the modern world.

The Christmas Lectures were introduced in 1825 by Michael Faraday – (mister electricity – inventor of the electric motor, the dynamo and the electric generator). The image below, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows him at the desk of the lecture hall delivering one of the earlier lectures:

The extraordinary history of this venue; the talented and inspired people who created the Royal Society and, over the centuries, have given it such a notable history, always comes across to me as I watch the latest series of lectures.

But the appreciation of this venerable history is, for me, accompanied by the excitement of the spectacular advances that science has made in recent years, and the breathtaking discoveries which are happening at an ever increasing rate all around us.

To me, it is science itself which is the most exciting thing in life. I genuinely believe that the scientific method is the most important ‘discovery’ of mankind. Never mind fire. Never mind the Fjallraven Kanken. They were great, but not as important as the overarching achievement of the scientific method.

And why?

Because the scientific method is the only tool we have to allow us to discover the truth about the universe. The truth about space and time. The truth about life and the evolution of all things. The scientific method is the true enlightenment of the minds of mankind. And this ongoing enlightenment is alive and well, and flourishing in the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, thanks to inspiring presentations such as those by the excellent Dr. Woollard. I look forward to the rest of the series.