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 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.

The uncertainty principle tells us that it would take infinitely long to measure energy (or mass) with infinite precision, and that the longer a particle lasts, the more accurate our measurement of its energy can be. But if the particle is short-lived and its energy cannot possibly be determined with infinite precision, the energy can temporarily deviate from that of a true long-lived particle. In fact, because of the uncertainty principle, particles will do whatever they can get away with for as long as they can.

We certainly don't yet know all the answers. But the universe is about to be pried open.

You learn that the interest is in what you don't yet know and that theories evolve. But we nonetheless have progress and improved knowledge over time.

The uncertainty principle tells us that you need high-momentum particles to probe or influence physical processes at short distances, and special relativity relates that momentum to a mass.

We have this very clean picture of science, you know, these well-established rules with which we make predictions. But when you're really doing science, when you're doing research, you're at the edge of what we know.

You might find it hard to imagine gravity as a weak force, but consider that a small magnet can hold up a paper clip, even though the entire earth is pulling down on it.

The universe has its secrets. Extra dimensions of space might be one of them. If so, the universe has been hiding those dimensions, protecting them, keeping them coyly under wraps. From a casual glance, you would never suspect a thing.

We live in a world where there are many risks, and it's high time we start taking seriously which ones we should be worried about.

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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