Sean Carroll, fully Sean Michael Carroll

Carroll, fully Sean Michael Carroll

American Cosmologist and Physics Research Professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Physics, Author

Author Quotes

The neutron is a bit of a drama queen.

This is not a universe that is advancing toward a goal; it is one that is caught in the grip of an unbreakable pattern.

The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

Those who think of metaphysics as the most unconstrained or speculative of disciplines are misinformed; compared with cosmology, metaphysics is pedestrian and unimaginative. ?Stephen Toulmin

The particular aspect of time that I'm interested in is the arrow of time: the fact that the past is different from the future. We remember the past but we don't remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you can't turn an omelet into an egg.

Walter Wagner, the man who had gone to court to stop the Large Hadron Collider from beginning operations. A serious charge had been leveled: the LHC was a hazard to the very existence of life on earth. JO: So, roughly speaking, what are the chances the world is going to be destroyed? Is it one in a million, one in a billion? WW: Well, the best we can say right now is about a one-in-two chance. JO: Hold on a second. It?s . . . fifty-fifty? WW: Yeah, fifty-fifty . . . If you have something that can happen, and something that won?t necessarily happen, it?s going to either happen, or it?s going to not happen, and, so, the best guess is one in two. JO: I?m not sure that?s how probability works, Walter.

The personal desires and cares that we start with may be simple and self-regarding. But we can build on them to create values that look beyond ourselves, to the wider world. It?s our choice, and the choice we make can be to expand our horizons, to find meaning in something larger than ourselves.

Way back in 1831, Michael Faraday, one of the founders of our modern understanding of electromagnetism, was asked by an inquiring politician about the usefulness of this newfangled electricity stuff. His apocryphal reply: I know not, but I wager that one day your government will tax it.

The reason why science and religion are actually incompatible is that, in the real world, they reach incompatible conclusions. It?s worth noting that this incompatibility is perfectly evident to any fair-minded person who cares to look. Different religions make very different claims, but they typically end up saying things like ?God made the universe in six days? or ?Jesus died and was resurrected? or ?Moses parted the red sea? or ?dead souls are reincarnated in accordance with their karmic burden.? And science says: none of that is true. So there you go, incompatibility.

We are looking for a complete, coherent, and simple understanding of reality. Given what we know about the universe, there seems to be no reason to invoke God as part of this description.

The result is a complete fiasco. Our simple estimate of what the vacuum energy should be comes out to about 10105 joules per cubic centimeter. That?s a lot of vacuum energy. What we actually observe is about 10-15 joules per cubic centimeter. So our estimate is larger than the experimental value by a factor of 10120?a 1 followed by 120 zeroes. Not something we can attribute to experimental error. This has been called the biggest disagreement between theoretical expectation and experimental reality in all of science.

We are part of the universe that has developed a remarkable ability: We can hold an image of the world in our minds. We are matter contemplating itself.

The speed of time is 1 hour per hour, no matter what else is going on in the universe.

We don?t know how the universe began, or if it?s the only universe. We don?t know the ultimate, complete laws of physics. We don?t know how life began, or how consciousness arose. And we certainly haven?t agreed on the best way to live in the world as good human beings.

The strength of the electromagnetic interaction, for example, is fixed by a number called the fine-structure constant, a famous quantity in physics that is numerically close to 1/137.

We find ourselves, not as a central player in the life of the cosmos, but as a tiny epiphenomenon, flourishing for a brief moment as we ride a wave of increasing entropy ? purpose and meaning are not to be found in the laws of nature, or in the plans of any external agent, but in our urges.

The universe is not a miracle. It simply is, unguided and unsustained, manifesting the patterns of nature with scrupulous regularity. Over billions of years it has evolved naturally, from a state of low entropy toward increasing complexity, and it will eventually wind down to a featureless equilibrium. We are the miracle, we human beings. Not a break-the-laws-of-physics kind of miracle? It is wondrous and amazing how such complex, aware, creative, caring creatures could have arisen in perfect accordance with those laws. Our lives are finite, unpredictable, and immeasurably precious. Our emergence has brought meaning and mattering into the world.

We have to be willing to accept uncertainty and incomplete knowledge, and always be ready to update our beliefs as new evidence comes in? Our best approach to describing the universe is not a single, unified story but an interconnected series of models appropriate at different levels. Each model has a domain in which it is applicable, and the ideas that appear as essential parts of each story have every right to be thought of as ?real.? Our task is to assemble an interlocking set of descriptions, based on some fundamental ideas, that fit together to form a stable planet of belief.

The world is not magic ? and that?s the most magical thing about it.

We seek an understanding of the laws of nature and of our particular universe in which everything makes sense to us. We do not want to be reduced to accepting the strange features of our universe as brute facts.

The world is what exists and what happens, but we gain enormous insight by talking about it ? telling its story ? in different ways.

We?re not allowed to call the Higgs Boson the ?God Particle? anymore because now there?s evidence that it exists.

The world keeps happening, in accordance with its rules; it's up to us to make sense of it and give it value.

When society puts some small fraction of its wealth into asking and answering big questions, it reminds us all of the curiosity we have about our universe. And that leads to all sorts of good places.

Then we compare the predicted abundance of such a WIMP with the actual abundance of dark matter.

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Carroll, fully Sean Michael Carroll
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American Cosmologist and Physics Research Professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Physics, Author