Scientists Need to Throw Out Ideas Like Yesterday's Newspaper
Lawrence Maxwell Krauss is a Canadian-American theoretical physicist who is a professor of physics, and the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. He is an advocate of scientific skepticism, science education, and the science of morality. Krauss is one of the few living physicists referred to by Scientific American as a "public intellectual", and he is the only physicist to have received awards from all three major U.S. physics societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics.
Throughout my career I’ve been surprised. Perhaps the most amazing surprise to me was actually one that I ultimately proposed but it defied everything I'd thought before. And that is this amazing result that empty space has energy.
It is so weird to think that you can get rid of all the particles and all the radiation in space and it still weighs something. It seems crazy. And when I was a graduate student, we were all certain that the energy of empty space was zero. And ultimately we were dragged - in fact, I was dragged, kicking and screaming by the observations - to propose this incredibly crazy idea that empty space has energy.
In fact, it’s been observed to have energy. In fact, the people who observed it won the Nobel Prize last year. And I think for me that has changed everything about my understanding of the universe. Both its past, its present, and its future. And I think it’s a wonderful example of how scientists are willing to throw out ideas like yesterday’s newspaper.
The idea that empty space has zero energy is beautiful mathematically. It’s elegant, but beauty and elegance is not important. What's important is how the world behaves. And no matter how cherished a notion we have about that, we should be willing to throw it out.
I had faith that, at some level, the energy of empty space was zero. But when it became clear to me that that was not reconcilable with the evidence, I was willing to throw it out. What's great is that the rest of the physics community and scientific community has too because we've now discovered that idea was wrong.
And if you had asked anyone 25 years ago if this was likely, everyone would have said no.
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.
- How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
- To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
- The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.