Lisa Randall


American Theoretical Physicist, Expert on Particle Physics and Cosmology, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science on the Physics Faculty of Harvard University

Author Quotes

Even though it is unseen and unfelt, dark matter played a pivotal role in forming the Universe?s structure. Dark matter can be compared to the under-appreciated rank and file of society. Even when invisible to the elite decision makers, the many workers who built pyramids or highways or assembled electronics were crucial to the development of their civilizations. Like other unnoticed populations in our midst, dark matter was essential to our world.

Only when existing scientific ideas fail where more daring ones succeed do new ideas get firmly established. For this reason controversy can be a good thing for science when considering a (literally) outlandish theory. Although those who simply avoid examining the evidence won?t facilitate scientific progress, strong adherents to the reigning viewpoint who raise reasonable objections elevate the standards for introducing a new idea into the scientific pantheon. Forcing those with new hypotheses ? especially radical ones ? to confront their opponents prevents crazy or simply wrong ideas from taking hold. Resistance encourages the proposers to up their game to show why the objections aren?t valid and to find as much support as possible for their ideas.

The beauty of the scientific method is that it allows us to think about crazy-seeming concepts, but with an eye to identifying the small, logical consequences with which to test them.

There are many aspects of time we just do not understand. That?s the thing about writing a popular book: You realize the things you understand because for those you can give a really simple explanation. But some things about time I just don?t know how to give simple explanations for, even though I can tell you mathematically what?s going on.

When I came to Harvard, I was debating between math and science, and I guess I thought in the end I wanted something that could connect to the real world. I liked puzzle-solving and connections.

There are women for whom family is a priority, and they do it. It just wasn't as much a priority for me.

When I was in school I liked math because all the problems had answers. Everything else seemed very subjective.

There can sometimes be this fear among laypeople: 'I don't understand everything in science perfectly, so I just can't say anything about it.' I think it's good to know that we scientists are also confused some of the time.

When it comes to the world around us, is there any choice but to explore?

There could be more to the universe than the three dimensions we are familiar with. They are hidden from us in some way, perhaps because they're tiny or warped. But even if they're invisible, they could affect what we actually observe in the universe.

When people try to use religion to address the natural world, science pushes back on it, and religion has to accommodate the results. Beliefs can be permanent, but beliefs can also be flexible. Personally, if I find out my belief is wrong, I change my mind. I think that's a good way to live.

There is real confusion about what it means to be right and wrong - the difference between what spiritual beliefs are and what science is.

When you're reaching out to people beyond the scientific community, image does matter.

The standard model of particle physics describes forces and particles very well, but when you throw gravity into the equation, it all falls apart. You have to fudge the figures to make it work.

They tell us remarkable things, such as that extra dimensions can be infinite in size yet remain unseen, or that we can be living in a three-spatial-dimensional sinkhole in a higher-dimensional universe.

With general relativity, we know that before gravity can act, spacetime has to deform. This process does not happen instantaneously. It takes time. Gravity waves travel at the speed of light. Gravitational effects can kick in at a given position only after the time it takes for a signal to travel there and distort spacetime.

The sublime proffers scales and poses questions that just might lie beyond our intellectual reach. It is for these reasons both terrifying and compelling. The range of the sublime changes over time as the scales we are comfortable with cover an increasingly large domain. But at any given moment, we still want to gain insights about behavior or events at scales far too small or far too large for us to readily comprehend.

This doesn?t mean that science necessarily will answer all questions. People who think science will solve all human problems are probably on the wrong track as well. But it does mean that the pursuit of science has been and will continue to be a worthwhile endeavor. We don?t yet know all the answers. But scientifically inclined people, whether or not they have religious faith, try to pry open the universe and find them.

You can be only a modest distance away from the gravity brane, and gravity will be incredibly weak.

The thing I will say is that probably culturally, women are treated differently, which means, I think, you're criticized more, you have to listen a little bit more, you have to justify yourself.

Travel at faster than the speed of light certainly can have dramatic implications that are difficult to understand, such as time travel.

You have principles. You test them as accurately as you can. Eventually, they might break down.

The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, coupled with the relations of special relativity, tell us that, using physical constants, we can relate a particle?s mass, energy, and momentum to the minimum size of the region in which a particle of that energy can experience forces or interactions.

Trillions of solar neutrinos pass through you each second, but interact so weakly that you never notice.

You have to be careful when you use beauty as a guide. There are many theories people didn't think were beautiful at the time but did find beautiful later and vice versa. I think simplicity is a good guide: The more economical a theory, the better.

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American Theoretical Physicist, Expert on Particle Physics and Cosmology, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science on the Physics Faculty of Harvard University