An inspiring brick. Photo by Celie.
I’ve been hit by the Brick of Inspiration, the one that hits you with the thought “I wonder if…?” while you’re supposed to be doing something else. The trigger was the forthcoming Post-grad seminars. You’re supposed to give one a year. I’m completing my second full-time-equivalent year and I’ve given five or six. By my count that exempts me from any seminars for the remainder this PhD and all of the next one. However the department might have a different view so I thought I’d have a bit more of a proactive attitude rather than wait to have a seminar sprung on me.
I try not to talk about the PhD, because it’s a mixed ancient history and archaeology audience. So I end up explaining the basic historical and archaeological context of the PhD and then basic astronomy which, with a 20 minute talk, leaves just enough time to say it’s all going swimmingly. Astronomy’s not rocket science, it just needs time to explain what the basics are, but time is at a premium in just 20 minutes. So I try and pick something that’s small but similar to my PhD, or just something I find interesting.
What I thought I’d do was something purely as something interesting. Fortunately while it’s not exactly my PhD, it’s next door. It’s about how people made sense of the world. Usually you might think of this as either religion or science. I’m not sure how much sense it makes to divide between the two in ancient times and this talk will illustrate that. I thought to talk about ghost stories as a means of making sense of the world. When we look back at the past we tend to act as if people are perfectly rational. I wonder how unintentionally anachronistic this is. I’m ignoring the reasonable objection that people in modern times aren’t perfectly rational either.
I’d like to pretend what I think is actually a fruitful source of serious enquiry arrived in my mind as the result of careful and meticulous thinking. In fact it came from thinking about how I could get explosions into my talk.