How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World

Monday, October 03, 2011

Lisa Randall explains the latest developments in physics that have the potential to radically change our understanding of the world—its makeup, its evolution, and the fundamental forces that drive it. In Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World she explores the role of risk, creativity, uncertainty, beauty, and truth in scientific thinking through conversations with leading figures in other fields (such as the chef David Chang, the forecaster Nate Silver, and the screenwriter Scott Derrickson). She also explains the latest ideas in physics and cosmology.


Lisa Randall

Comments [11]

Luboš Motl from Czech Republic

HughSansom: You must have been obviously using some heavily defective databases that don't include particle physics papers at all. Lisa Randall was, among other things, the most cited particle physicist between 1999 and 2004. Open and type "Lisa Randall" to see those numerous papers with many and many thousands of citations. Or go to and type "find a randall,l" without quotes.

Oct. 07 2011 10:35 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I really appreciate scientific explanations for the average person, of course. I prefer the idea, rather than that of Einstein's theory having better measurements in the quantum world, to saying that Einstein described the world with different concepts than Newton, so even though even common measurements are the same, the whole reason behind them is different. Not to say Newton was wrong, his theory matched the measurements they were able to make at the time. And a theory that supplants Einstein, if it comes about, will use entirely different concepts.

Oct. 05 2011 08:04 AM
Kevin Nolan from Riverhead,NY

Lisa Randall's reading of Keats's, "Truth is beauty" leads me to invite her to read it in context, his Letter to George and Tom Keats, December 21-27,1817, for there it actually renders a very different notion than what her understanding. Keats's sense of Beauty was "the capacity to relish concrete reality in its full, if elusive meaning." Thus the Truth and full bearing of the concrete world "swells into reality so vividly that the...awareness of it is also beautiful" ( taken from English Romantic Writers, ed. David Perkins, 1967). As a quote of the day on a calendar page, Keats's wonderful line is oft misread, but in the context it it's actually more in line with some of the investigative and observatory process of the sciences. Keats's poems are the best examples of the real world delivering a sense wonderment. Not bad for a man who had tuberculosis, and when coughing up blood one morning into his hand looked down and said, "My messenger has arrived," and was dead at 26. Next time you're in Rome, visit Keats's last residence in the Spanish Steps. In all, you will be less likely to reduce his work to a hasty and simplistic understanding.

Oct. 04 2011 10:28 PM
rh from NYC area

I find the view that only non-scientists, and especially religious types, don't believe in science very narrow-minded. I believe in science as a concept, but I most certainly DON'T believe all the science that I read. As someone else mentioned, global warming is one example where many scientists believe that the media has made junk science into "fact", all contributing to the pocketbooks of a bunch of computer modelers.

Ms. Randall denigrates scientists by saying that we "believe in science" as if as soon as someone says they are a scientist, their studies must be true. What she is talking about is science as religion, taking on faith something we can't prove.

I can believe that she is a Time magazine most influential person, because she is all about media, and her distorted views are a reason why non-scientists distrust many scientists.

Oct. 03 2011 10:45 PM

Interesting interview, really. But Lisa Randall's propaganda machine makes me wonder. I checked a couple of cites that monitor citations in the sciences. Randall didn't appear on one of them at all (meaning, not in the top 1000 physicists worldwide by citation). She wasn't in the top 100 on the other. As for Time -- well, does Time have any connection to reporting news anymore?

Oct. 03 2011 12:44 PM
Calls'em from Someplace dry & dusty.

Everyone agrees that there is "climate change;" it's just that 10 out of 11 scientists don't (do not) believe that it is "man made." The earth is in constant flux. "Man Made Global Warming" is a fraud that is redistributing wealth to a small group of people and to redistribute power to the 3rd world. You live in Lalaland when you continue this canard. Millions are out of work and out of their homes because of restrictive environmental rules that have shut down industry here.

Oct. 03 2011 12:42 PM
Spacelawyer from NYC

Fascinating interview.

As a lawyer & non-scientist, I love your books, Lisa. Thanks for these offerings & your super efforts at keeping us lay folks up to (sub-light, sub-neutrino) speed on the latest mind-bending physics.

(In exchange, I had a few suggestions re law books you may enjoy... I tweeted you the links! ;)

Oct. 03 2011 12:37 PM

Ms Randall wrote an interesting piece for the currnet issue of Time; she seems to suggest that scientific fact ought to serve as the ultimate arbiter on policy regarding politically 'divisive' issues such as climate change, stem cell reseach, etc

Oct. 03 2011 12:22 PM
Peter Talbot from Harrison, NJ

Unified theory of force: Einstein's elusive grail. Where does it stand now?

Oct. 03 2011 11:51 AM
Peter Talbot from Harrison, NJ

1. The potential for speeds faster than that of light has enormous implications for every branch of physics, and breathes hope into the star-travel myths engendered in science fiction. Is this for real?

2. What does it mean for American physics that the Tavitron has been unplugged?

3. Unified theory of forces continues to be elusive as subatomic measures continue to heighten the paradox of wave vs. particle physics and "dark matter" findings have yet to be integrated in astronomical theorizing about the birth (and death) of stars. What does the recent observation of mega-yellow star "birth" mean (if anything) in this regard?

Oct. 03 2011 11:48 AM
Ed from Larchmont

As important as scientific thinking is, one can read Pope Benedict's address to the German Parliament to see how it's not the only kind of thinking we need to do:

Oct. 03 2011 08:15 AM

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