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RBSS Programme 2018

June 21 - 24 at Dungarvan and Lismore Co. Waterford


Booking on Eventbrite here

Where to stay? See here for info.

The 7th Robert Boyle Summer School will ask and seek to answer "What do we know?"

| Science | History | Culture | Politics | Ethics | Technology | Philosophy |

This theme follows naturally from the 6th Robert Boyle Summer School which explored "What is Science for?" in addressing fundamental questions of science. What do we know  naturally begs "How do we know it?". We will visit Boyle in his time and also meet with scientists through history to find out what did they know. We will explore modern neuroscience to find out how the brain is equipped to know things. With experiments on food and drink we will find that we cant trust  our senses. We will also look at a current revolution of Big Data which promises great advances. But, what do we know now through the unimaginably huge volumes of data collected on everyone and everything. This then prompts the question "What do they know?" about each of us and how harmful might this be?

A range of Irish and International speakers will address this theme and the school will have a nice blend of social and cultural activities.

Special Rate €100 for all events

Booking on Eventbrite here

Robert Boyle Summer School 2018 Programme

Thursday 21 June

Park Hotel Dungarvan

7 pm. The Robert Boyle Show

A costumed show recreating the life and works of Robert Boyle with Calmast. This will start off the festival and set the scene. It will introduce attendees to Boyle and his works. Boyle's experiments were famous throughout Europe and performed to crowned heads. These demonstrations have not lost their impact after 350 years and they will be faithfully recreated and explained. This show has been performed in several countries and has travelled the Island last year as the Institute of Physics Tyndall Lecture, playing to over 2,000 people.


Friday 22 June

Park Hotel Dungarvan

9:30 am registration and welcome

10 am Boyle's Theory of Knowledge

Dr William Eaton, Associate Professor of Early Modern Philosophy, Georgia Southern University will speak about Boyle’s theory of Knowledge.

It's well known that Robert Boyle was a champion of experimental scientific knowledge, but much more can be said about his epistemology.   In this session we'll learn about Boyle's view on the nature and limits of scientific knowledge, his rejection of premature speculation, the status of innate ideas and intuitive knowledge, and his anticipation of both the problem of induction and the distinction between real and nominal essence.  By seeing his philosophy of science in the larger context of his other epistemological concerns, we come to a better understanding of Boyle's contribution to the development of the modern world.

William is also an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Centre for Irish Research and Teaching, and a Research Associate at the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, at the University of York.  His work includes research in Early Modern Philosophy, the History and Philosophy of Science, and Contemporary Analytic Metaphysics.  He is currently writing a book that explores the influence of medical science on the development of early modern philosophy. More about Bill Eaton here.

11 am The How, Who & What of Scientific Discovery

Paul Strathern is a British writer and academic who has also written numerous books on science, philosophy, history, literature, medicine and economics. He was born in London, and studied at Trinity College, Dublin, after which he served in the Merchant Navy over a period of two years. He then lived on a Greek island. In 1966 he travelled overland to India and the Himalayas. His novel A Season in Abyssinia won a Somerset Maugham Award in 1972.

Besides five novels, he is the author of two successful series of short introductory books: Philosophers in 90 Minutes and The Big Idea: Scientists Who Changed the World. His book on the history of chemistry entitled Mendeleyev's Dream (2001) was short-listed for the Aventis Prize, and his works have been translated into over two dozen languages. He is the author of the best-selling The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, Napoleon in Egypt, and The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior: Leonardo, Machiavelli and Borgia - a fateful collusion (2009) and The Spirit of Venice: from Marco Polo to Casanova (2012). His most recent works are The Periodic Table and "Quacks, Rogues and Charlatans" (both 2015).Strathern was a lecturer at Kingston University, where he taught philosophy and mathematics.More about Paul's books here

3 pm Scientific enquiry and brain state. Understanding the nature of knowledge.

Professor William T. O’Connor is Foundation Chair, Head of Teaching and Research in Physiology at the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School. His previous posts include Head of Neuroscience Research in University College Dublin, and Associate Professor of Pharmacology at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. His main interest is understanding illness of mind and brain as a disorder of the nerve network, and in the emerging field of neuroeducation - the brain science of learning.  Billy has a strong commitment to community outreach. This is  best illustrated through the popular Inside-the-Brain website, Twitter and Facebook accounts which report on the latest findings from the world of brain research. More about Prof O'Connor here

6 pm The Science of Gin

Peter Mulryan, director of the award winning and local Blackwater Distillery will give a talk about the history and science of gin making. Blackwater Distillery makes the award winning Robert Boyle Gin and other products. This very appropriate preprandial talk will include samples for all the audience, so is for over 18s only. Thanks to Peter for stepping in at last minute as Dr Amy Burns unfortunately cant come due to unforeseen circumstances.

8 pm Dinner



Saturday 23 June

Lismore Heritage Centre

9 am Bus leaving Park Hotel Dungarvan for Lismore

9:30 am registration and welcome

10 am Promise and Peril of Big Data

Timandra Harkness is a presenter, comedian and writer who wrote the critically acclaimed book Big Data: Does Size Matter?

Timandra presents FutureProofing the BBC Radio 4 series. She has also presented documentaries, Data, Data Everywhere, Supersense Me & The Singularity, and was resident reporter on Radio 4's social psychology series The Human Zoo.

More about Timandra here. Her TedX talk What Is Knowledge In The Age Of Big Data? Can be seen here.

11 am Science Denial: will any knowledge do?

Dr Robert P. Crease, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, New York, asks

What kind of authority does science have in politics and public life?  What should it have?  Scientific authority seems at a low point in many countries thanks to the flourishing of science denial, or the rejection of science in areas where political, economic, and religious interests come into play.  It is easy to blame this on villains like the press, scientific illiteracy, posturing politicians, and irrationality, but the real answer is complicated.  Understanding science denial, and how to counter it, requires shifting the focus from the “What” in the question “What do we know?” to the “we and the “know.”

Professor Crease has written, translated, or edited over a dozen books on history and philosophy of science. Crease is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Physics in Perspective, and writes a monthly column, “Critical Point,” for Physics World magazine, on the philosophy and history of science. His articles and reviews have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsday and elsewhere. Robert's website can be seen here. And, you can view his TEDx talk here

3 pm Panel Discussion

A panel discussion with bring together different strands from the school to see if we are closer to answering the question "What do we know". This is another chance for all participants to get involved in the discussion.

7 pm Garden Party Lismore Castle Gardens

Food, Drink, Conversation and Sunshine amid the only original Jacobean Gardens in Ireland (as they were when Robert Boyle was a boy)

  • 17th Century music played on flute, cello and violin
  • locally produced artisan food
  • Robert Boyle Gin Cocktails

10 pm Bus returns to Dungarvan

Sunday 24 June


11 am Imponderable Science: Boyle and the history of cold

Paul Nugent, Dr Sheila Donegan, Eoin Gill and Cordula Weiss will present a recreation and interpretation of Boyle’s own work.  Sheila, Eoin and Cordula work with Calmast the STEM Hub for the South East of Ireland based in Waterford Institute of Technology where they manage a large programme of science promotion and communication. Paul is a physics teacher based in Dublin and the Institute of Physics Teacher Coordinator for the Republic of Ireland and one of the leads in the very popular Physics Busking initiative. All four are part of the organising committee and will normally be behind the scenes keeping everything running smoothly. They will come together to recreate Boyle’s own experiments and explain them in the context of understanding of the time and their significance for the evolution of science.

12.30 Walking tour of Historical Dungarvan

A walking tour of Dungarvan led by local historian John Young will introduce visitors to the wonderful history and heritage of this vibrant town. (duration 1 hour meet at Devonshire Bridge beside Lawlor's Hotel)

Bed and Breakfast at the Park Hotel will be charged at a rate of

€55 per night per person sharing

€79 per night for a single room

Other accommodation also available in Dungarvan, Lismore and surrounding area. See here for more info

To get a flavour of the Robert Boyle Summer Schools you can view previous programmes.