From Newton to Turing: Physics and the Computational Constraint

Professor S Barry Cooper (Leeds University)

5.30pm  Thursday 30 August 2012 

James Callaghan Building, Swansea University

 A free public lecture, all welcome.

Alan Turing’s interest in computability was fundamental, both in its approach to questions about the real world, and in the nature of his mathematics. Until the Twentieth Century, science had been increasingly ruled by a computational paradigm going back to Newton and earlier. Turing was part of a radically new engagement with physical, mental and mathematical phenomena which stretched our conceptual and heuristic frameworks. This talk presents a centennial review of Turing’s work in clarifying the nature of the computational world and understanding our everyday efforts to predict and compute.

In what ways does the world – including the human mind – compute? In what sense does the world compute at all? What is the real significance of randomness and incomputability? What opportunities and problems does natural embodiment of computation present? Can we repair today’s fractured relationship between mathematics and everyday experience? Throughout his life, Alan Turing thought about such questions, and engaged intimately with the incomputable. Of course, one can get too close: unpredictability may be more than just mathematics.

S. Barry Cooper is Professor of Mathematical Logic at the University of Leeds who has made deep contributions to the mathematical theory of computation. In recent years he has championed the return to basic questions of the kind considered by Alan Turing, and interdisciplinary developments related to computability. He is the founder and inaugural President of the Association for Computability in Europe, and is Chair of the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee (TCAC) which is co-ordinating an extraordinary successful global Alan Turing Centenary Year 2012.


A Learned Society of Wales Anniversaries Lecture.


A flyer for the event may be found here.