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March 28, 2002 Inter-university science seminars that tantalize the scholarly mind



Researchers are tackling stimulating questions at two ongoing seminar series at Concordia, one on the history and philosophy of science and the other on physics.

The Montreal Inter-University Seminar on the History and Philosophy of Science is well under way; the fourth seminar will take place on April 2. It will be given by André LeBlanc, of UQAM and Concordia, “On the Analogy Between the Placebo Effect, Hypnosis and Belief.”

“In this talk,” LeBlanc says, “I will attempt to convince you that the placebo effect is really just a form of hypnosis and that hypnosis is really just a question of belief. Drawing upon recent work in the history and philosophy of science, I will argue that all three phenomena are governed by a common psychological mechanism, first identified by Pascal in the 17th century, by which we come to believe in something by first behaving as though we believe.”

This series is intended to serve as a forum for scientists from the Montreal universities and colleges to report on their research results and exchange ideas. The seminars are organized by Psychology Professor Michael von Grunau, who is principal of Concordia’s Science College, and Vesselin Petkov, PhD, who teaches at both the Liberal Arts College and the Science College.

Professor von Grunau says that graduate and undergraduate students may find the seminar helpful and a source of further motivation and inspiration, and encourages them to participate. He can be reached at the College, at 848-2597, or by e-mail, at vgrunau@vax2.concordia.ca.

The Montreal Inter-University Physics Seminar Series aims to examine fundamental issues in relativity and quantum mechanics.

The topics to be discussed this year include special relativity and general relativity. Here are a few of the tantalizing brain-teasers participants will consider:

Was special relativity possible in the 17th century? It could not have been actually discovered then, but is logically contained in Galileo’s principle of relativity. Why is it impossible to measure the one-way velocity of light? Does mass increase with velocity? Does light fall in a gravitational field?

The first meeting in this series took place March 12 at the Science College. Dr. Petkov will give the rest of this series on open questions in physics. The next lecture will be on Tuesday, March 26, in the Science College, X-105, at 2080 Mackay St. For more information contact Vesselin Petkov at vpetkov@alcor.concordia.ca.

Information on both seminar series can be found on the Science College Web site at http://alcor.concordia.ca/~scol/.