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Sean Carroll — Quanta and Fields

Quanta and Fields: The Biggest Ideas in the Universe (book cover)

Sean Carroll is creating a profoundly new approach to sharing physics with a broad audience, one that goes beyond analogies to show how physicists really think. He cuts to the bare mathematical essence of our most profound theories, explaining every step in a uniquely accessible way.

Quantum field theory is how modern physics describes nature at its most profound level. Starting with the basics of quantum mechanics itself, Sean Carroll explains measurement and entanglement before explaining how the world is really made of fields. You will finally understand why matter is solid, why there is antimatter, where the sizes of atoms come from, and why the predictions of quantum field theory are so spectacularly successful. Fundamental ideas like spin, symmetry, Feynman diagrams, and the Higgs mechanism are explained for real, not just through amusing stories. Beyond Newton, beyond Einstein, and all the intuitive notions that have guided homo sapiens for millennia, this book is a journey to a once unimaginable truth about what our universe is.

Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, and Fractal Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. He is host of the Mindscape podcast, and author of From Eternity to Here, The Particle at the End of the Universe, The Big Picture, and Something Deeply Hidden. He has been awarded prizes and fellowships by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the American Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of London, and many others. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, writer Jennifer Ouellette. His new book series, The Biggest Ideas in the Universe, includes one volume on Space, Time, and Motion, and this new volume on Quanta and Fields.

Shermer and Carroll discuss:

  • the measurement problem in physics
  • wave functions
  • entanglement
  • fields
  • interactions
  • scale
  • symmetry
  • gauge theory
  • phases
  • matter
  • atoms
  • What is time?
  • Is math all there is? Is math universal?
  • double-slit experiment
  • superposition
  • metaphors in science
  • limitations of models and theories of reality
  • What banged the Big Bang?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Second Laws of Thermodynamics and directionality in nature
  • Is there a place for God in scientific epistemology?
  • many interpretations of quantum mechanics
  • multiple dimensions and the multiverse
  • string theory and the multiverse
  • known unknowables: Are there things we can never know, even in principle?

    • God
    • hard problem of consciousness
    • free will/determinism.

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This episode was released on May 18, 2024.

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