"The Theory Was Almost Smarter Than We Were"

Physics is a process of rigorous, exhausting intellectual inquiry, but it does offer occasional moments that are "kind of fun." For Harvard's Lisa Randall, one such moment came when she and a colleague worked out the possibility of an infinite extra dimension. "People had actually thought there were theorems that [said] you couldn't have" such a thing, she remembers, but there was no mistaking the implications of her equations: the impossible was possible.


In her second conversation with Big Think, Randall addresses various new developments that have taken place in particle physics since her previous interview in 2008, most notably the activation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. Touching on some of the largest unresolved mysteries in her field, she ticks off a list of questions to which the LHC may provide long-awaited answers, including: where do the masses of elementary particles come from? Why aren't those masses much bigger? And in a related problem, why is gravity so weak?

If you're wondering how Randall's work affects you, you might want to obtain your answer from a new opera for which Randall wrote the librettoand which aims, she says, "to communicate why we [scientists] care about exploration and discovery." Performed recently at the Barcelona Opera House (and coming soon to the Guggenheim Museum in New York), the performance also attempts to suggest the expanding reality of a fifth dimension and was, says Randall, a "very exciting" thing to be a part of.


Randall's first Big Think interview can be found on her expert page (click "Other Ideas" for past features).

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

10 books to check out from Jordan Peterson's 'Great Books' list

The Canadian professor has an extensive collection posted on his site.

Jordan Peterson with Carl Jung and the cover art of Jaak Panksepp's 'Affective Neuroscience' (Image: Chris Williamson/Getty Images/Big Think)
Personal Growth
  • Peterson's Great Books list features classics by Orwell, Jung, Huxley, and Dostoevsky.
  • Categories include literature, neuroscience, religion, and systems analysis.
  • Having recently left Patreon for "freedom of speech" reasons, Peterson is taking direct donations through Paypal (and Bitcoin).
Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

Should you invest in China's stock market? Know this one thing first.

Despite incredible economic growth, it is not necessarily an investor's paradise.

Videos
  • China's stock market is just 27 years old. It's economy has grown 30x over that time.
  • Imagine if you had invested early and gotten in on the ground floor.
  • Actually, you would have lost money. Here's how that's possible.