Philosophy of Science (4th year students)

In this study unit we shall principally be looking at:

  • Key figures in and examples from the history of science:
    Antiquity (e.g. Aristotle and natural vs. violent motion, Epicurus, and others); the clash between rationalism and empiricism (Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Kant); examples drawn from the history of astronomy (e.g. Galileo’s observations, Kepler’s geometric description of planetary motion, Newton’s formulation of gravity) 
  • Logical Positivism (e.g. the analytic-synthetic distinction and verifiability of meaning); Logical Empircism; discuss the work of Quine, Carnap, and others
  • The problem of Induction (e.g. Hempel’s paradox, logical equivalence)
  • Conjectures & Refutations and Falsification (Karl Popper); The Hypothetico-Deductive Method
  • The Demarcation Problem
  • Thomas Kuhn: Scientific Paradigms & Revolutions, Incommensurability
  • Research Programmes and Research Traditions; Auxiliary Hypotheses (Imre Lakatos, Larry Laudan)
  • Naturalism (foundationalism, normative naturalism)
  • Scientific Realism (e.g. direct realism)
  • Underdetermination in Science and Empirically Equivalent Theories

The following list includes the main reading material we shall be making use of for this course:

– Popper, K., Conjectures and Refutations, Routledge, 1963.
– Kuhn, T., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1970.
– Popper, K., The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Routledge, 2004.
– Godfrey-Smith, P., Theory and Reality, University of Chicago Press, 2003.
– Curd M., Cover, J.A., Pincock, C., Philosophy of Science – The Central Issues (2nd edition), W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

The main text used for topics pertaining to the philosophy of physics, specifically spatiotemporal locality and fields is The Philosophy of Physics by Marc Lange (Blackwell Publishing).

For further reading on more specialised topics, I recommend:

– Batterman, R. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Physics, Oxford University Press, 2013.
– Chamcham, K., Silk, J., Barrow, J.D., Saunders, S. (eds.), The Philosophy of Cosmology, Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Advanced Astrophysics and Cosmology (4th year students)

Key components of this study unit include:

  • History of the universe from the Big Bang to the present
  • Components of the energy density of the universe
  • Perturbations and structure formation; the Cosmic Microwave Background
  • The Dark Ages and Reionisation
  • Galaxy formation
  • Basic principles of galaxy evolution and stellar formation & evolution
  • Concepts in galactic dynamics
  • Cosmological probes
  • Principles of astronomical data reduction 

Physical Optics (2nd year students)

Some of the topics we shall be covering in this study unit include:
  • Further Geometric Optics (Ray Transfer Matrix Analysis with examples)
  • The particle interpretation of light
  • Summary of Fourier Analysis and Fourier Transforms
  • Aberration theory
  • Interference: Spatial and Temporal Coherence; Interferometers; Single and double slit diffraction
  • Near and far field diffraction theory; Gaussian beam examples; Grating examples
  • Babinet’s principle and applications
  • Polarization (linear, circular and elliptical)
  • Laser physics (holography, quantum optics, metrology, medical applications, environmental sensing, etc. depending on available time)
  • Point Spread Functions and response of imaging systems; Adaptive optics
  • Telescopes (refractors, reflectors, catadioptric)
  • Gravitational lensing: strong, weak and micro, cosmic telescopes, etc.
The main text is Optics by E. Hecht (Addison Wesley).


For information on currently available undergraduate, masters and PhD projects, please get in touch with me directly.

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