Mobilis in Mobili: On Space, Time, Motion, and Forces | 01-07 Sept 2019

Workshop piloted by Gabriel Catren

In this workshop addressed to non-scientists, we shall propose a philosophically oriented introduction to the epic history that led from the first axiomatic formulation of geometry in Euclid's Elements around 300 BC – passing by key figures such as Galilei, Leibniz, Newton, Maxwell, and Mach – to Einstein's theory of (special and general) relativity developed during the first two decades of the XXth century. By addressing the problem of deciding about the absolute or relative nature of physical motion, this narrative turns around what we could consider the most fundamental notions of physics: the notions of space, time, motion and forces. By sanctioning the marriage of space and time and describing gravity as a manifestation of the curvature of space-time induced by the presence of matter, Einstein’s theory completely subverted the inherited ideas about all these notions.

By doing so, Einstein’s work also opened the field of contemporary astrophysics and cosmology. In this theoretical framework, new physical objects such as black holes and new physical phenomena such as gravitational waves and gravitational lensing were theoretically predicted and subsequently observed. Moreover, Einstein’s theory of general relativity made possible the current comprehension of the evolution of our expanding Universe in the framework of the so-called Big Bang theory.
In this workshop we shall address these subjects from a purely conceptual standpoint. By doing so, we intend to share one of the most fundamental, vertiginous and still gravid with surprises trends of thought in the history of physics with persons lacking any previous high-level background in physics or mathematics.

The workshop will take place during four days (starting on September 1st in the morning and ending on September 7th in the afternoon) interspersed by three “free” days in which the participants will have the time to rest and/or work through the new material.

The workshop will be free (besides the accommodation and meals expenses).

Dates: September 1st– September 7th, 2019.
Location: Performing Arts Forum in Saint Erme, France
Accommodation: 18€ per night (to PAF) plus a 12€ one-year PAF membership.
Meal expenses: yet to be confirmed.
Teaching fee: None

The maximum number of participants is of 40 persons. Persons who attend the whole workshop will have priority. Reservations – by writing to – are mandatory. For questions about this Workshop, you can get in touch with Gabriel Catren (

In order to organize the cooking, we shall need at least five volunteers to take care in advance of the shopping and the organization of the ingredients in the storage. Without these volunteers, the workshop cannot run smoothly.

Gabriel Catren is a philosopher and a physicist working at the Institut SPHERE - Science, Philosophie, Histoire (Université Paris Diderot – CNRS, Paris). This workshop takes place in the framework of the Laboratoire International Associé (LIA) Identities, Forces, Quanta (CNRS).