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Science Matters with Lawrence Krauss

Airdate: March 14, 2017
Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss will give us his insight into the latest science news.

Guests:
  • Lawrence Krauss - Arizona State University Physicist
Category: Science

Keywords: science, Arizona State University, Lawrence Krauss,

View Transcript
TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON ARIZONA HORIZON, RENOWNED THEORETICAL PHYSICIST LAURENCE KRAUSS TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW BOOK, “THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD SO FAR.” AND WE’LL HEAR ABOUT ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY’S PERFORMANCE OF A PLAY BASED ON THE RHYMNE OF THE ANCIENT MARINER. COMING UP NEXT ON ARIZONA HORIZON.

NARRARATOR: ARIZONA HORIZON IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. THANKS YOU.

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON. I’M TED SIMONS.

TED SIMONS: EACH MONTH WE VISIT WITH ONE OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN PHYSICS: ASU’S OWN LAWRENCE KRAUSS, HE’S AN AWARD-WINNING SCIENTIST, A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, AND HE’S HERE WITH US TONIGHT TO TALK ABOUT HIS LATEST BOOK: THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD– SO FAR. WHY ARE WE HERE? HERE NOW, THERE HE IS. LAWRENCE KRAUSS.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: AND I’M HERE TO TALK TO YOU.

TED SIMONS: CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BOOK, I’M PROUD OF YOU. BECAUSE THE PROLOGUE STARTS WITH, “IN THE BEGINNING”, AND CHAPTER 1 STARTS TITLED “GENESIS.” YOU’VE FOUND THE FAITH!

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: THE POINT IS, THERE’S ANOTHER STORY THAT’S OFTEN CALLED “THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD,” IT’S FAR MORE INTERESTING, AND FULL OF DRAMA AND PATHOS AND EXCITEMENT, BUT GREATEST PART OF IT IS THE FACT THIS STORY GETS BETTER ALL THE TIME, AND IN THE FUTURE IT WILL BE BETTER THAN IT IS NOW BECAUSE WE KEEP LEARNING MORE.

TED SIMONS: IS THIS A CONTINUATION OF YOUR LAST BOOK, “A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING”?

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: IT IS. THE LAST BOOK WAS ABOUT THE REVELATIONS OF THE UNIVERSE ON LARGER SCALES, AND ADDRESSED SOME OF THESE TRANSCENDENTAL QUESTIONS THAT HUMANITY ASKS: “WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING?” ONE OF THE OTHER BIG QUESTIONS, OF COURSE, IS “WHY ARE WE HERE?” THIS BOOK DOESN’T LOOK AT THE LARGE-SCALE UNIVERSE, BUT TALKS ABOUT THE REVOLUTIONS IN OUR UNDERSTANDINGS OF THE UNIVERSE ON SMALLER SCALES. THIS BOOK ADDRESES THE QUESTION, “HOW DOES THE STUFF OF YOU AND I GET HERE, WHY IS IT THE WAY IT IS?” THAT INVOLVES UNDERSTANDING THE SMALLER STRUCTURE.

TED SIMONS: IT SEEMS LIKE THROUGHOUT THE BOOK IT’S THE DISCOVERY OF CONNECTIONS BETWEEN SEEMINGLY DISPARATE PHENOMENA. IT REALLY IS OUT OF THE BLUE, A LOT OF IT.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: IT’S AMAZING. IT’S FORCED UPON US, BECAUSE THE IMAGINATION OF NATURE IS FAR GREATER THAN OUR IMAGINATION. SO PHYSICISTS GOT DRAGGED KICKING AND SCREAMING TO THE POINT WE’RE AT NOW. THAT WAS PART OF THE FUN STORY TO TELL, THE HISTORY OF THAT. SEEING THE RED HERRINGS, SEEING PHYSICISTS GOING DOWN THIS TRACK OR THAT TRACK, AND THEY HAD THE RIGHT IDEAS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE UNDERSTAND TODAY, BUT THEY WERE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTIONS.

TED SIMONS: AGAIN, YOU START LITERALLY WITH PLATO’S CAVE. YOU’RE GOING BACK TO THE ANCESTORS.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: IN MY MIND, IT’S THE GREATEST INTELLECTUAL JOURNEY MANKIND HAS EVER TAKEN. BACK TO THE TIME OF PLATO TO THE EVOLUTION OF MODERN SCIENCE, TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WE’RE SEEING, THE UNIVERSE WE SEE, IS A SHADOW OF REALITY. JUST LIKE IN PLATO’S CAVE, IT’S AN ILLUSION. THE FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE OF THE UNIVERSE IS DIFFERENT. AT ITS MOST FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL, THE LAWS OF NATURE WOULDN’T HAVE ALLOWED US TO LIVE IF NOT FOR AN ACCIDENT BETWEEN THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE AND NOW WHEN THIS FIELD FROZE IN AN EMPTY SPACE THAT CAUSED THE FORCES TO BEHAVE IN A DIFFERENT WAY THAT ALLOWED US TO BE HERE. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!

TED SIMONS: SO WHEN YOU WRITE, “THE UNIVERSE WASN’T MADE FOR US,” THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: EXACTLY. THE LAWS OF NATURE IN NO WAY ON A FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL ARE DESIGNED FOR HUMANS TO EXIST. WE ARE HERE BY AN ACCIDENT. IN THE BOOK, I MAKE IT AKIN TO BEING ON AN ICE CRYSTAL ON A WINDOW. IF YOU LIVED ON THE ICE CRYSTAL, YOU WOULD THINK, WOW, THIS DIRECTION IS SPECIAL, IT'S MEANT TO BE THAT WAY, AND YOU WOULD DEVELOP A SCIENCE AND A THEOLOGY AROUND IT, BUT IT'S AN ACCIDENT. SIMILARLY, THE REASON ELECTROMAGNETISM BEHAVES DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER FORCES OF NATURE, IT'S AN ACCIDENT, AND IT'S UNIFIED WITH ONE OTHER FORCE OF NATURE, THE WEAK FORCE.

TED SIMONS: IT'S AN ACCIDENT SO FAR.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: IT'S THE SAME AS AN ICE CRYSTAL FORMING. IT FROZE IN A CERTAIN CONFIGURATION. IF IT HAD FROZEN IN A DIFFERENT CONFIGURATION, THEN AS WE MOVE THROUGH THIS BACKGROUND SPACE, THE FORCES WE EXPERIENCE AND THE NATURE OF OUR PARTICLES WOULD CHANGE. SO IN THAT SENSE, UNLESS -- IT REALLY IS AN ACCIDENT. YOU CAN SAY OF COURSE ALL SUCH ACCIDENTS CAN HAVE SOME PURPOSE THAT WE DON'T UNDERSTAND, AND YOU CAN NEVER PROVE THAT'S NOT THE CASE, BUT THERE'S NO EVIDENCE OF IT. IF YOU WANTED TO PROVE IT WAS DESIGNED THAT WAY, THERE WOULD BE A LOT EASIER WAYS TO DO IT. YOU COULD HAVE THE STARS ALIGN SAYING I MADE THIS. SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

TED SIMONS: YOU HAVE THE BOOK TITLED THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, AND YOU HAVE THE IDEA OF ANCIENT CAVEMEN SITTING AROUND TELLING STORIES TO EXPLAIN WHY THE STARS ARE DOING WHAT THEY ARE DOING, AND THE CLOUDS ARE DOING WHAT THEY ARE DOING, BUT THAT'S IN OUR DNA, STORIES. YOU TALKED ABOUT GAUGING SIMMETRY.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: YOU HAVE TO READ IT SLOWLY! THE REASON I INTRODUCED GAUGE SYMMETRY, IT'S ONE OF THE HARDEST CONCEPTS TO UNDERSTAND, BUT ALL OF MODERN PHYSICS IS BASED ON THIS WEIRD MATHEMATICAL SYMMETRY OF THE UNIVERSE, AND WHEN PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THIS ESOTERIC PHYSICS, THEY DON'T THINK THEY CAN GET THERE BUT YOU GET THERE BY A LOT OF BABY STEPS, LIKE WE DID IN THE HISTORY OF PHYSICS. IF YOU FOLLOW THROUGH, YOU'LL AT LEAST GET SOME APPRECIATION FOR HOW WE GOT TO WHERE WE ARE AND THAT IT IS AMAZING THAT WE ARE THERE. AND THE FACT THAT IT IS A STORY, I KNOW IT'S IMPORTANT AND YOU'LL BE TALKING A PLAY ON NEXT, BUT THE GREAT THING ABOUT SCIENCE, LIKE ARTS, MUSIC, LITERATURE, DRAMA, WHAT SCIENCE IS BEST FOR IS TO REASSESS OUR PLACE IN THE COSMOS AND THINK ABOUT IT IN A NEW WAY. THAT'S WHAT WE DO WHEN WE SEE A GREAT PLAY. THIS UNIVERSE IS MAYBE NOT AS I THOUGHT, AND WHY I'M HERE IS MAYBE DIFFERENT THAN WHY I'D IMAGINE.

TED SIMONS: AS YOU MENTION, OUR BRAINS AREN'T WIRED TO GRASP QUANTUM MECHANICS.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: THEY WERE WIRED TO ESCAPE LIONS ON THE SAVANNAH. THAT'S WHY IT TAKES A WHILE TO GO THROUGH IT. QUANTUM MECHANICS LEADS ULTIMATELY TO THIS DISCOVERY OF THE HIGGS FIELD, WHICH IS KIND OF WEIRD IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT. WE POSTULATED THIS FIELD TO BE IN EXISTENCE, WHICH SOUNDS KIND OF RELIGIOUS, A FORCE THAT SHOULD BE EVERYWHERE. BUT IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH JUST TO POSTULATE IT. YOU HAVE TO DISCOVER IT. I TALK ABOUT A 50-YEAR SEARCH BUILDING THE MOST COMPLEX MACHINES HUMANS HAVE EVER BUILT, IN ORDER TO CREATE THE HIGGS PARTICLES THAT SHOWED IT WAS TRUE.

TED SIMONS: WE HAD YOU ON THE SHOW NOT LONG AFTER THE HIGGS FIELD WAS DISCOVERED, SO TO SPEAK, AND IT SEEMS LIKE THAT'S A HUGE, HUGE DEAL.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: YEAH, EXACTLY, AND THEN THE SHOW, AS ELOQUENT AS WE WERE IN THE FEW MINUTES THAT WE WERE TOGETHER, YOU CAN'T REALLY APPRECIATE HOW THAT INCREDIBLE INTELLECTUAL HOUSE OF CARDS HINGED ON THE DISCOVERY OF THAT FIELD. THE WHOLE THING COULD HAVE FALLEN APART BECAUSE IT WAS BASED ON THIS WEIRD NOTION AS I SAY I THOUGHT NATURE WOULDN'T ACTUALLY DO, BUT ISN'T IT AMAZING THAT WE HAVE THIS IDEA, WE WORK HARD FOR 50 YEARS, BUILD THESE COMPLEX GOTHIC CATHEDRALS OF THE 21st CENTURY, AND IT'S REALLY TRUE. WE HAVE THESE INSIGHTS INTO NATURE THAT TELL US AT A FUNDAMENTAL SCALE, THINGS ARE SO DIFFERENT, AND I THINK THERE'S IMPLICATIONS FOR TODAY. BECAUSE WHAT SCIENCE HAS ALLOWED US TO DO IS TO CUT THROUGH THE ILLUSION OF REALITY AT A FUNDAMENTAL ESOTERIC SCALE, AND WE ARE LIVING IN THIS WORLD OF ALTERNATE FACTS AND OTHER THINGS, WHAT WE NEED TO CUT THROUGH THE GARBAGE IS THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD, IS BEING SKEPTICAL, BASING WHAT YOU CLAIM ON EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE AND REASON, TESTING IT TO SEE IF IT'S RIGHT, AND IF WE ALL USE THOSE THINGS, THEN WE CAN DISTINGUISH THE NONSENSE FROM THE SENSE. SO I THINK THERE'S A MORAL HERE. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THIS IS ABOUT STUFF THAT IS PRETTY WILD AND ESOTERIC, ALTHOUGH ULTIMATELY, AS I SAY, IT BEGINS AT A HUMAN LEVEL, IT HAS AN IMPLICATION FOR WHY WE ARE LIVING TODAY.

TED SIMONS: THE SUBTITLE IS “WHY ARE WE HERE. “

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: THE ANSWER IS NO REASON, THAT IT'S AN ACCIDENT, AND THAT'S OKAY. IT'S ALL RIGHT THAT THERE IS NO REASON WE ARE HERE. WE SHOULD ENJOY THE ACCIDENT. I ENJOYED THE ACCIDENT OF MEETING YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME, AND I'M ENJOYING THE ACCIDENT THAT ALLOWS ME TO EXIST HERE AND FOR A BRIEF WHILE TO LOOK OUT IN AWE AND WONDER AT THE UNIVERSE, AND IT'S AMAZING THAT THIS UNIVERSE THAT REALLY WASN'T DESIGNED FOR LIFE IN A FUNDAMENTAL SENSE ALLOWED US TO BE HERE AND EXPERIENCE THE AWE AND WONDER OF THE UNIVERSE.

TED SIMONS: IF WE WEREN'T HERE, WOULD THERE BE A HERE?

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: IF A TREE FELL IN THE FOREST, DO YOU MEAN? THAT TYPE OF THING?

TED SIMONS: SIMILAR.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: YES, IT'S INCREDIBLY SOLOPSISTIC TO IMAGINE THAT THE UNIVERSE REQUIRES OUR EXISTENCE. IT WOULD DO FINE AS IT DID. HOMINIDS HAVE ONLY BEEN HERE FOR A FEW MILLION YEARS, BUT THE EARTH HAS BEEN HERE FOR FOUR AND A HALF BILLION YEARS, FOR A GOOD 8 BILLION YEARS BEFORE THAT, THE UNIVERSE DID FINE WITHOUT US BEING HERE.

TED SIMONS: SO FAR AS WE KNOW.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: SO FAR AS WE CAN TEST.

TED SIMONS: THE BOTTOM LINE IN THE BOOK, UNDERSTANDING HOW LEADS US TO WHY.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE WHY, AT SOME LEVEL, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE HOW. YOU CAN'T JUST GIVE UP YOUR -- THROW UP YOUR HANDS AND SAY "BECAUSE." IT'S NOT VERY ILLUMINATING. AND AT SOME LEVEL, IT'S LAZY, AND IT ALWAYS, IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE HOW, THE WHY BECOMES MUCH MORE INTERESTING, AND THE STORY, AS I SAY, IF WE JUST LIED IN REVELATION, IF WE JUST SAT IN OUR OFFICES IMAGINING WHAT THE UNIVERSE WAS LIKE, THE UNIVERSE WE'D COME UP WITH IS FAR LESS INTERESTING IN THE ONE WE LIVE IN. IT'S BECAUSE NATURE HAS FORCED US TO GO THERE, AND THAT STORY REALLY DOES MAKE THE PRESENT, AT LEAST FOR ME, SEEM FAR MORE INTERESTING.

TED SIMONS: SO LAST QUESTION BEFORE YOU GO. THIS IS ALL FASCINATING.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: THANK YOU.

TED SIMONS: THIS IS ALL VERY INTERESTING, AND OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE DONE GREAT WORK. HOW DO WE KNOW ALL OF THIS IS REAL?

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: WHAT DO YOU MEAN REAL? YOU MEAN ARE WE IN A MATRIX?

TED SIMONS: I DON'T KNOW WHAT A MATRIX MEANS. HOW DO WE KNOW IT'S REAL? THAT THERE ISN'T A GREAT BEING SOMEWHERE?

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: BECAUSE IF I TAKE THIS WATER AND THROW IT IN YOUR FACE, YOU'RE GOING TO KNOW IT'S REAL.

TED SIMONS: YEAH, I GUESS I AM. ALL RIGHT. CONGRATULATIONS. IT'S FASCINATING STUFF. I'M GLAD YOU STARTED WITH PLATO'S CAVE AND KIND OF THE EARLY GUYS AND MOVED US INTO STUFF THAT COULD BE A LITTLE MORE DIFFICULT

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: THANKS A LOT. IT WAS FUN TO TALK ABOUT. NEXT MONTH WE'LL RETURN TO THE REST OF THE WORLD OF SCIENCE.

TED SIMONS: THANKS, MAN. THIS IS "ARIZONA HORIZON." COMING UP, WE'LL HEAR ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE OF A LOCAL PLAY INSPIRED BY A CLASSIC POEM, THE RHYME OF AN ANCIENT MARINER. THAT'S NEXT.