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

The separate aims shouldn?t be a source of conflict ? in fact they seem in principle to create a nice division of labor. However, religions don?t always stick to questions of purpose or comfort. Many religions attempt to address the external reality of the universe as well, as can be seen even in the definition of the word: The American Heritage Dictionary tells us that religion is ?belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe.? says that religion is ?A set of beliefs concerning the causes, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observations, and of constructing a moral code governing the morality of human affairs.? Religion in these definitions is not only about people?s relationship to the world ? be it moral or emotional or spiritual ? but it?s about the world itself. This leaves religious views open to falsification. When science encroaches on domains of knowledge that religion attempts to explain, disagreements are bound to arise.

All of the lightest stable quarks and leptons have heavier replicas. No one knows why they are there, or what they are good for. When physicists first realized that the muon, a particle first seen in cosmic rays, was nothing other than a heavier version of the electron (200 times heavier), the physicist I.I. Rabi asked, Who ordered that?

For two events separated in time, a geodesic is the natural path things would take in spacetime to connect one event to the other.

I started out working on supersymmetry. The theory predicts that for every particle we know about, there will be an additional particle.

It's hubris to think that the way we see things is everything there is.

People who dismiss science in favor of religion sometimes confuse the challenge of rigorously understanding the world with a deliberate intellectual exclusion that leads them to mistrust scientists and, to their detriment, what they discover.

Sometimes I have a sense of what I'm seeing being a small fraction of what's there. Not always there, but probably more often than I realize. Something will come up, and I'll realize I'm thinking about the world a little differently than my friends.

Although I was first drawn to math and science by the certainty they promised, today I find the unanswered questions and the unexpected connections at least as attractive.

Gravity in our world would be weak because extra dimensions are large, not because there is fundamentally a big mass responsible for the tiny gravitational force.

I think it's a problem that people are considered immoral if they're not religious. That's just not true.... If you do something for a religious reason, you do it because you'll be rewarded in an afterlife or in this world. That's not quite as good as something you do for purely generous reasons.

It's not completely obvious what gravity is, fundamentally, or what dimensions are, fundamentally. One of these days we'll understand better what we mean, what is the fundamental thing that's given us space in the first place and dimensions of space in particular.

People?s curiosity and the ability to make progress toward satisfying this hunger for information make humanity very special indeed. We are the one species equipped to ask questions and systematically chip away to find the answers. We question, we interact, we communicate, we hypothesize, we make abstractions, and in all of this we end up with a richer view of the universe and our place within.

Spacetime can be so warped that the gravitational field becomes highly concentrated in a small region near a brane?so concentrated that the huge expanse of an infinite dimension is inconsequential.

Although there are many possibilities, the branes that will be most interesting to us later on will be the three-dimensional ones. We don?t know why three dimensions should appear to be so special. But branes with three spatial dimensions could be relevant to our world because they could extend along the three spatial dimensions we know. Such branes could appear in a bulk space with any number of dimensions that is more than three?four, five, or more dimensions. Even if the universe does have many dimensions, if the particles and forces with which we are familiar are trapped on a brane that extends in three dimensions, they would still behave as if they lived in only three.

Harvard freshmen are smart, interested, and excited, and it's fun hearing their different perspectives and stuff that they will share.

I think simplicity is a good guide: The more economical a theory, the better.

Maxwell was a brilliant scientist who counted among his many interests optics and color, the mathematics of ovals, thermodynamics, the rings of Saturn, measuring latitude with a bowl of treacle, and the question of how cats land upright while conserving angular momentum when dropped upside down.

Physicists are interested in measuring neutrino properties because they tell us about the structure of the Standard Model, the well-tested theory that describes matter's most basic elements and interactions.

Speculation and the exploration of ideas beyond what we know with certainty are what lead to progress.

An almost indispensable skill for any creative person is the ability to pose the right questions. Creative people identify promising, exciting, and, most important, accessible routes to progress - and eventually formulate the questions correctly.

How can a four-dimensional and a five-(or ten-)dimensional theory have the same physical implications? What is the analog of an object traveling through the fifth dimension, for example? The answer is that an object moving through the fifth dimension would appear in the dual four-dimensional theory as an object that grows or shrinks.

I was always good at math, but I was good at everything. It sounds obnoxious, but I was just smart. In school, it's kind of obvious when you're learning things faster than other kids.

Maybe the question of whether people can access truth on their own is the real issue at the heart of the religion/science debate. Is it possible that the negative attitudes toward science we hear today are partially rooted in the admittedly extreme beliefs expressed by Herbert and Milton? I?m not sure we are arguing so much about how the world came to be as about who has a right to figure things out and whose conclusions we should trust. The universe is humbling. Nature hides many of its most interesting mysteries.

Physicists have yet to understand why the Higgs boson's mass is what it is.

That?s what?s special in special relativity: the special inertial frames are only a small subset of all possible reference frames.

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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