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.

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.

The warp factor is a function that changes the overall scale for position, time, mass, and energy at each point in the fifth dimension.

We should figure out how to do this so that some parents don't feel disenfranchised, angry and upset. It says a lot about the state of where we are in the city, the role of parents and the reality of small school and combining schools.

The weak force violates parity symmetry by acting differently on left-handed and right-handed particles. It turns out that only left-handed particles experience the weak force. For example, a left-handed electron would experience the weak force, whereas one spinning to the right would not. Experiments show this clearly?it?s the way the world works?but there is no intuitive, mechanical explanation for why this should be so.

What I do is very theoretical. It won't necessarily have implications for anything anyone is doing tomorrow, yet you know that there's a sense of progress in science, and as we understand more, it just turns out that, somehow, the world evolves with us.

The word precisely captures what makes the universe so wonderful and so frustrating at the same time. A great deal seems beyond our reach and our comprehension, while still appearing to be close enough to tantalize us ? to dare us to enter and understand. The challenge for all approaches to knowledge is to make those less accessible aspects of the universe more immediate, more understandable, and ultimately less foreign. People want to learn to read and understand the book of nature and accommodate those lessons into the comprehensible world.

What makes me different as a scientist is that I'm kind of imaginative. The ideas just happen.

There are a lot of mysteries about quantum mechanics, but they mostly arise in very detailed measurements in controlled settings.

When a field takes a nonzero value, the best way to think about it is to imagine space manifesting the charge that the field carries, but not containing any actual particles.

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.

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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