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28 January 2019

Tidal bores explored at Higgs Lecture 2019

Professor Sir Michael Berry FRS, theoretical physicist at the University of Bristol, spoke about the mathematics and physics of tidal bores in the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences’ annual Higgs Lecture 2019.

River with wind turbines

Hosted in the Great Hall on Monday 21 January, ‘Chasing the dragon: tidal bores in the UK and elsewhere’ looked at how, in some of the world’s rivers, an incoming high tide can arrive as a smooth jump decorated by undulations, or as breaking wave. The river reverses direction and flows upstream.

Professor Berry’s lecture incorporated analogies with tsunamis, rainbows, horizons in relativity, and ideas from quantum physics; the concept of a ‘minimal model’ in mathematical explanation; different ways in which different cultures describe the same thing; and the first unification in fundamental physics.

Professor Sir Michael Berry is a distinguished mathematical physicist and Emeritus Professor at the University of Bristol. His research is aimed at understanding the borderlands between different levels of theory, such as classical and quantum mechanics, or ray and wave optics. In addition, he is fascinated by the links between abstract theory and familiar natural phenomena: the arcane in the mundane.

He has received numerous prizes and awards for his work, including the Maxwell Medal and Prize and the Dirac Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics, and the Polya Prize of the London Mathematical Society. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1982 and knighted in 1996.

Following his sold-out lecture, Professor Berry said:

'Giving a lecture in a series honouring Peter Higgs is itself an honour. The tidal phenomenon I spoke about, related to quantum physics and relativity, fits perfectly with FC Frank’s definition: “Physics is not just concerning the nature of things, but concerning the interconnectedness of all the natures of things”'.

Higgs Lecture 2019 speakers (l-r Professor Reimer Kuehn, Professor Sir Michael Berry, Professor Michael Luck)

Above: l-r Professor Reimer Kuehn, Professor Sir Michael Berry and Professor Michael Luck.

Delivered in December 2012, the inaugural annual Higgs Lecture was given by its name bearer, Professor Peter Higgs, who returned to King's after graduating in 1950 with a first-class honours degree in Physics, and who famously predicted the Higgs Boson particle.

Read more about the Higgs Lecture series


Annual Higgs Lecture - 2019

Every year, the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences invites an eminent speaker from across the fields of mathematics,...