Hello England!

Just a word to folks in the UK, I’ll be breezing through next week and the week after and giving a handful of talks. First up is a visit to Oxford, where I’m participating in a miniseries called “Is God Explanatory?” (Not really, I will point out.) The workshop proper includes me, philosophers Lara Buchak and John Hawthorne, and astronomer/theologian William Stoeger. The conference dinner on the 10th will feature brief talks by me and philosopher/theologian Keith Ward. I think it will all be interesting and useful discussion, largely free of sputtering and invective. While I’m there I hope to sneak in some chats about quantum mechanics and cosmology with the local physicists and philosophers. (Very sad I’ll be missing A Theory of Justice: The Musical.)

After that it’s off to London, where I will briefly pretend to be Michael Faraday and give a lecture at the Royal Institution. I’ll be talking about the Higgs boson. It’s a pretty new particle, you probably haven’t heard of it. </hipster>

Then it’s off to the wilds of Nottingham, where I’m giving both a colloquium on the 16th on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and a public lecture on the 17th. The latter is, you know, open to the public, so please stop by. (The colloquium is presumably also open, but it’s for folks who are already familiar with the basics of QM.)

Unless you already went to the RI lecture, in which case don’t bother, since they’re on the same topics. Seriously, even the jokes will be the same. The trick is to make it sound like I just thought them up.

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20 Responses to Hello England!

  1. James Gallagher says:

    The wife won’t let me out of the house so lucky for you I won’t be able to heckle 🙂

    Good luck with the “tour”, weather will be miserable so visit a few pubs now and then to cheer yourself up, and remember that British academics aren’t nearly as clever as American academics so do dumb down the presentation. 😉

  2. Zerub says:

    Sean, I hope the “Is God explanatory” miniseries would be recorded. Please do paste the links as soon as they are uploaded. I really enjoyed the Moving Naturalism Forward videos.

  3. Barlow says:

    A thought re: the Higgs field.

    Is the field everywhere? Or only in certain places in the Universe?

    If the Higgs field is dependably pervasive on Earth and near Earth, and it’s much stiffer than gravity, then is it possible that we have finally found something to “push against” in space? Could we lauch payloads from Earth by pushing against the Higgs? Could we hover in midair by doing the same pushing?

    Just an idle thought….

  4. Sean Carroll says:

    The Higgs is everywhere throughout the (observable) universe, not just in some places. But you can’t push against it, because it doesn’t define a rest frame; it looks the same to all observers. You can’t “increase your velocity with respect to the Higgs.”

  5. Wazu says:

    How do you know God doesn’t exist?

  6. Y. Santens says:

    Are there any plans of talks in some of the neighbouring countries at some point? I would gladly attend one but don’t think that I can make it to the UK for these.

  7. Eugene says:

    Hi Sean,

    Any chance for a get together or a swing by KCL? It will be nice to catch up!


  8. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    Since you’re in England, you perhaps may be inspired to critique some claims published in one of the realm’s more dubious exports. Namely, an article in New Scientist suggesting that by manipulating the entropy of a super-cooled gas, and thereby creating a system with sub-absolute-zero temperature, one can gain insight to the cosmological constant (or whatever it is that’s accelerating universal expansion). While I don’t question the relevance of this research to the definition of temperature, the dark energy stuff seems like the kind of egregious overhyping that N.S. is infamous for propagating. As an entropist (is that a real word?), care to comment some day?


  9. Sean Carroll says:

    The dark energy stuff there is just silly. But I think we have the original researchers to blame, not the journalists in this case.

  10. Pingback: The World of Everyday Experience, In One Equation | Sean Carroll

  11. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:


  12. Steve J says:

    Wowza, Nottingham. I’m going to start camping out now! You’re following in Einstein’s footsteps – he came to notts to lecture in 1930 (in German) and I believe they still have the piece of chalk he used.

  13. Real Deal says:

    God is a concept invented by human beings. Therefore is it completely real and explainable. It is whatever man defined it to be. It is real enough in man’s mind.

    As to whether nature cares about any human concept, there is no evidence nature has ever operated in a way to accommodate any god. We are talking thousands of gods man have invented throughout history.

    What about explanatory? Is god explanatory? Yes. It explains whatever man wants it to explain.

  14. David Dickinson says:

    Dr. Carroll,

    Wondering if “God” is explanatory may lead to discussions on another subject you’ve touched on — and demolished: the possibility of life after death. Years ago, I’d completely dismissed the subject until I heard you speak about it in one of your recent YouTube videos (sorry, I can’t remember which one right now). I asked myself a question that you didn’t consider in your lecture and became intrigued by trying to figure out what happens to the information that any person holds when they die. Information is never lost, right?

    There I was, minding my own business, blissfully accepting finality, and then you didn’t answer that question. Oh, well. It’s a good excuse to dig out Gödel’s and Hofstadter’s books again.

  15. Pingback: borrowing a physics lesson….got it? « seeking spirit

  16. James Gallagher says:

    Hi David.

    The “information” the person held is gradually dissipated via bacterial decay and maybe even worm food, or, rather more sensibly, in cremation via hot gases. (You really need to take photos, make movies, record conversations if you want someone to survive their death)

    That’s unless the evolutionary process discovered something which enables consciousness that we (Science) don’t know about yet. (The dead body is still obviously disposable)

    Sean thinks evolution just “worked out” how to get consciousness from emergent determinism – but come on people, that’s ridiculous 🙂

  17. David Dickinson says:

    Hi, James,

    Of course, it’s ridiculous! If it wasn’t all planned and designed, then the Tooth Fairy never would have left those dimes under my pillow when I was a kid!

    On the other hand, “dissipated” is not the same as “destroyed”. Theoretically, all of that information could be re-assembled into a coherent form or, even, its original form. It’s just that the task is too complex for us to manage right now. But, as you point out, that information is carried on beyond death in different forms. Disassembled and disorganized into tiny bits, our information is unable to maintain consciousness (since there is no field or particle capable of maintaining communication between those dispersed bits), but it still exists.

    Of course, if dark matter turns out to inhabit not only dimensions we can observe but also some other dimension, then all bets are off. Better yet, what if everything is a hologram on some immaterial brane? That poor kid who wrote to Prof. Carroll and said that some people have a little too much time on their hands might be in for a rude awakening.

    Hopefully, I’m exactly the kind of person he was talking about.

  18. Gizelle Janine says:

    Sean: What a great hipster joke. That’s gotta be someone’s about me on Facebook.

  19. Dave Hooke says:

    Having followed your blog for a couple of years, watched some of your talks on youtube, and read From Here to Eternity, it was great to be able to attend your lecture at the Royal Institution tonight, Sean. Thanks for an excellent evening.

  20. Sean Carroll says:

    Glad you enjoyed it!