What does a theoretical physicist do all day? Janna Levin shares some insight on perception vs. reality, and provides a glimpse of how she spends her time (hint: doing math).
One of humanity’s gifts is the ability to simplify. Instead of acknowledging millions of molecules creating structures strong enough to sit on, people just see a chair. People can look past underlying patterns of electricity and silicon, to see a computer. When looking at a crowd, most people aren’t hit with immediate wonder at the hundreds of individuals with unique lives and perspectives. Instead, it’s just a crowd, filled with bustling bodies and blurry faces. Humanity simplifies things in order to understand them.
If you can't break through a wall, you climb over it. Janna Levin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College, points to three genius scientists who embraced limitations.
Many procrastinators have claimed that ever-closer deadlines help them focus and enforce creativity. There may be something to that. Not quite the procrastination, but the forced wall of immovability restricting them that gets gears going. For proof, get your hands on a copy of The Five Obstructions, a documentary where experimental Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier inflicts five restrictions on his filmmaking mentor and friend Jørgen Leth, pushing him to make the same short film five times in different ways, driving him to the edge of creativity (and of his sanity).
Albert Einstein was the first to discuss the fabric of space, and according to his theorems, the curvature of it. We have been discussing the possibility of gravitational waves ever since.
Albert Einstein was the first to discuss the fabric of space, and according to his theorems, the curvature of it. We have been discussing gravitational waves ever since. Einstein e claimed that with a planet orbiting on the fabric of space, it would act like the surface of a trampoline, sending out waves and ripples in reaction to the planet’s pressure.
Janna Levin is a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. She is also director of sciences at Pioneer Works, a center for arts and sciences in Brooklyn, and has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of spacetime. Her previous books include How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/Bingham Prize. She was recently named a Guggenheim fellow.