What does randomness and order mean to you? This is the question that has been posed to four Oxford Professors as part of a ‘Research in conversation’ series.

The inspiration for the series grew out of The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) conference ‘Randomness and Order’, at which academics in the fields of quantum physics, music, probability and medieval history discussed what randomness meant in their different disciplines.

To many, randomness and order are often seen as diametrically opposed concepts, with each being relevant either to the arts or sciences. However, insights from these Oxford Professors have shown that the concepts have cross-discipline applications. For example, Professor Alison Etheridge discusses the role of randomness in mathematical experiments, whilst Professor Jonathan Cross reflects on how music can embrace randomness; in its creation, performance or understanding.

Maths applicants may want to explore the role randomness plays when using stochastic models, such as in population research, and are encouraged to follow the links given on the series’ webpage. Physics applicants should consider whether randomness makes things intrinsically unknowable, as discussed in quantam mechanics theory. History applicants could look into how randomness influences the order of archives and their subsequent interpretation. Music applicants can conduct further research into how composers used computers to generate musical randomly, bringing into question the nature of what music is, how it is created and how it can speak.

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