Mon 3rd January 2022 7.30pm “Life is simple” – Prof Johnjoe McFadden
How Occam’s Razor Set Science Free And Unlocked The Universe
His new book, Life is Simple
(2 September 21) highlights the role of simplicity in science, and in particular its favourite tool, Occam’s razor. We begin in the turbulent times of the medieval friar, William of Occam, who first articulated the principle that the best answer to any problem is the simplest. This theory, known as Occam’s razor, cut through the thickets of medieval metaphysics to clear a path for modern science.
In the book, Professor McFadden follows the razor in the hands of the giants of science, from Copernicus, to Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Rubin and Higgs. Its success suggests that we live in the simplest possible habitable universe and supports the revolutionary theory that our cosmos has evolved.
After graduating with a degree in Biochemistry from Bedford College, University of London I went to do a Phd on fungal virus genetics working with Ken Buck at Imperial College. I then went on to my first post-doc at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School with Professor Bob Williamson on human genetics.
St Mary’s was as a terrifically stimulating environment at the time where I worked with loads of very clever people but, if the truth be told, my project didn’t go well so after a couple of years I went on to another post-doc at St. George’s Hospital Medical School to study Crohn’s disease with the surgeon John Hermon-Taylor. This went a lot better and I went on to investigate the role of mycobacteria in this disease, work which took me on to the University of Surrey
where I gained a lectureship in Molecular Microbiology working first on paratuberculosis in cows and humans, then tuberculosis and meningococcal meningitis in humans. My group now specializes in using systems-based approaches to study infectious disease.
I wrote the popular science book, Quantum Evolution
, published in the UK by HarperCollins in 2001, in the US by Norton
in 2002 and by Kyoritsu Shuppan in Japan in 2003. The book examines the role of quantum mechanics in life, evolution and consciousness. I also write articles regularly for the Guardian newspaper
in the UK on topics as varied as quantum mechanics, evolution and genetically modified crops, and occasionally review books for the Guardian. The Washington Post and Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung have also published my articles