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Lucretius the Physicist and Modern Science


Lucretius the Physicist and Modern Science

Date: Wednesday 7 August 2013
Time: 6 to 7pm
Venue: Austin Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, UWA
Parking: P3 off Hackett entrance 1
Cost: Free, but RSVP essential.
Book online at: www.ias.uwa.edu.au/lectures/konstan

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Lucretius’ poem On Nature presents a detailed overview of ancient atomic physics, as developed within the school founded by Epicurus. It has some remarkable features: not just atoms, but tiny, non-detachable parts of atoms; a granular or quantized theory of time; odd orders of magnitude including infinitesimals and quasi-infinites. How does this theory stand up as a science, in modern terms? Is it in some sense a precursor of modern physics? Or does it perhaps offer an alternative to Newtonian mechanics, a kind of anticipation of post-modern physics? In the course of the lecture, parallels will be drawn with early modern literature and art and their relation to modernism and postmodernism.

David Konstan is Professor of Classics at New York University and Professor Emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature at Brown University. Among his books are Roman Comedy (1983); Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres (1994); Greek Comedy and Ideology (1995); Friendship in the Classical World (1997); Pity Transformed (2001); The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature (2006); “A Life Worthy of the Gods”: The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus (2008); and Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea (2010). He is currently working on studies of beauty and remorse. He is a past president of the American Philological Association, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Professor Konstan is a 2013 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Professor-at-Large.