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What's Normal?

Tue, 25 Nov 2014, 8:00 PM, at The Wheatsheaf, London

What's Normal?

Are you normal? Does the idea that you might be sound reassuring or disappointing? To celebrate the merely average seems to diminish our capacity for the extraordinary. What kind of aspiration is that in a world that demands we exceed expectations and give at least 110%? Yet the word “normal” may bring much comfort when we hear it from our doctor, our child’s teacher or even our plumber. In news headlines it’s usually a good thing when a situation “returns to normal”. But what does this word mean, exactly?

From its beginnings in ancient Greek carpentry through cosmology, Napoleon Bonaparte and the physiognomists to modern financial mathematics, we trace the peculiar history of normality. Is this idea still fit for all the purposes it seems to serve in the contemporary world? If not what, if anything, should replace it?

Richard Barnett is a writer and broadcaster on the cultural history of medicine. Pembroke College, Cambridge sometimes lets him do a bit of teaching, and his latest book is The Sick Rose.

Rich Cochrane writes about and teaches maths and the history of ideas at City Lit and helps run the Fine Art Maths Centre at Central Saint Martins.


Mathematical Logic is not the Logic of Mathematics!

Tue, 27 Jan 2015, 8:00 PM, at The Wheatsheaf, London

Mathematical Logic is not the Logic of Mathematics!

Is maths underpinned by rock-solid logic? If not, what are we to make of it?


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