How Do We Separate the Brilliant from the Ridiculous?
Ray Jayawardhana: It's valuable to push your imagination and try to come up with all sorts of ideas and discuss them, debate them, test them, because it allows us to push what’s possible and open up new avenues.
Ray Jayawardhana is an astrophysicist at the University of Toronto. Hailed as "the new dean of popular science," Jayawardhana's discoveries have made headlines worldwide and led to accolades such as the Steacie Prize, the McLean Award, and a Radcliffe Fellowship.
It’s not often very easy to sort of tell the brilliant from the totally ridiculous because sometimes they’re not that far apart as they might seem at first sight.
Sometimes ideas that seem quite farfetched turn out to become reality much faster than you expect. And yet we are also not running around in jet packs. So it is not very easy to predict the future and a particular way something is going to work out or be applied.
With that said, as a scientist and as a science writer, I would use the criterion whether a proposed idea or a suggestion goes counter to already well-established and understood physics. Then I would say that’s likely not to turn out to be valid. However, there are ideas that are permitted within known physics and yet are perhaps impractical or just too expensive to actually carry out.
So some of the ideas that have been proposed, some of the schemes that have been cooked up around the practical uses of neutrinos, they range from using neutrino beams to signal aliens, which might be prohibitively expensive in terms of the energy it takes.
But it’s still interesting to push your imagination and try to come up with all sorts of ideas and discuss them, debate them, test them, because it allows us to push what’s possible and open up new avenues.
Ray Jayawardhana is the author of Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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