Nerenberg Lecture 2007

Premise: "Normal" science is in accord with the prevailing body of relevant scientific knowledge, but sometimes, persisting anomalies can be resolved only by "revolutionary" science, which requires a break from generally accepted ideas. Such a break has come to be known as a paradigm shift. This talk concerns a famous result of normal science that heat travels from hot to cold. Claiming otherwise is a modern-day heresy. It is like suggesting that water can flow uphill. However there are long standing problems in understanding the Sunís corona and sunspots that might be solved with such a heresy. Moreover there is a connection between the apparently anomalous solar phenomena and the disappointing failure of Tokamak fusion machines to confine their energy long enough to become viable energy sources. Such ideas may be perceived as threatening to the big, publicly-funded science of fusion research. One might expect stiff resistance, and one is not disappointed.

Bio: Les Woods was born in NZ in 1922, attended a trade school to become a mechanic, but managed to escape by winning a scholarship to university. In 1941 he ran away from home to join the RNZAF, and later became a fighter pilot in the Pacific, completing 76 missions in the Solomon Islands. After the War he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Merton College, Oxford, and following several years of research in aerodynamics, became a professor of engineering at the University of New South Wales. In 1961 he was elected to a Fellowship in engineering at Balliol College, Oxford and undertook research into the theory of magnetically confined hot plasmas with a consultancy at Culham Laboratory. In 1970 he became a Professor of Plasma Theory, but became disillusioned with the fusion energy project, which he believes survived on exaggerated claims of progress. In 1984 he became Chairman of the Mathematical Institute at Oxford University. In his autobiography "Against the Tide" Woods explains why in his view magnetic fusion has failed to succeed and outlines the philosophy of science to which he subscribes. He writes frankly about both his successes and failures and finishes with an account of his taking up gliding at the age of 74. He took retirement in 1990 and since then has undertaken research in solar physics. His latest book (Theory of Tokamak Transport) was published in 2006.

Nerenberg Lecture 2007:

Monday, March 12, 2007 at 7:30 PM in Conron Hall (University College 224)

Against the Tide:
The Fusion Energy Establishment and a Heretic's Challenge

Leslie Woods
Emeritus Professor of Mathematics & Fellow of Balliol College
University of Oxford

Thank you to:

Major Sponsors:

Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society
HP Canada
3M Canada
The Faculty of Science


The Fields Institute
Faculty of Engineering
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Faculty of Education
Faculty of Graduate Studies
Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Chemical Physics
Department of Applied Mathematics
Department of Chemistry
Department of Computer Science
Department of Mathematics
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Department of Philosophy
Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences
The Ontario Research Centre for Computer Algebra
The Teaching Support Centre
The Grad Club
Windermere Manor