Peregrinations

Running around these days, doing some linear combination of actual work and talking about things. (Sometimes the talking leads to actual work, so it’s not a total loss.) If you happen to be in a sciencey kind of mood when I’m in your vicinity, feel free to come to a talk and say hi!

  • Today, if you happen to be in Walla Walla, Washington, I’ll be giving the Brattain lecture at Whitman College, on the Higgs boson and the hunt therefor.
  • Next week I’ll be in Austin, TX. On Thursday April 17, I’ll be speaking in the Distinguished Lecture Series, once again on the marvels of the Higgs.
  • In May I’ll be headed to the Big Apple twice. The first time will be on May 7 for an Intelligence Squared Debate. The subject will be “Is There Life After Death?” I’ll be saying no, and Steven Novella will be along there with me; our opponents will be Eben Alexander and Raymond Moody.
  • Then back home for a bit, and then back to NYC again, for the World Science Festival. I’ll be participating in a few events there between May 29 and 31, although precise spatio-temporal locations have yet to be completely determined. One will be about “Science and Story,” one will be a screening of Particle Fever, and one will be a book event.
  • I won’t even have a chance to return home from NYC before jetting to the UK for the Cheltenham Science Festival. Once again, participating in a few different events, all on June 3/4: something on Science and Hollywood, something on the Higgs, and something on the arrow of time. Check local listings!
  • A chance I will be in Oxford right after Cheltenham, but nothing’s settled yet.
  • That’s it. Looking forward to a glorious summer full of real productivity.

Greetings from Bangkok

Where you will find a welcoming Ronald MacDonald,

ronald

a monk checking his iPhone,

monk

and a stone temple guardian in a top hat:

guard

That’s all for now. Probably radio silence until I get back next week.

Hither and Yon

Best intentions (put nose to the grindstone, get these papers finished) notwithstanding, I do have a few more public lectures and whatnot coming up over the next few weeks. Would love to see you there! And if not, I recently did an episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast with Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef, where we talked about naturalism, science, philosophy, and other things I’m marginally qualified to speak on.

Wednesday May 22: I’m giving a public talk on the arrow of time at UC Davis. This is in the midst of a conference on the early universe, which should also be fun.

Wednesday May 29: I’ll be talking with Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist?, at the LA Public Library. It’s possible this is will be sold out, but I think they’re going to tape it.

Sunday June 2: I’m the keynote speaker at the American Humanist Society annual conference in San Diego. 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday, so this one might be easier to get into! In fact you can get in for free even if you didn’t register for the conference, by following these simple steps:

1. Go to the website here: http://ahacon13.eventbrite.com/#
2. Click the orange “Enter Promotional Code” link.
3. Enter FREECON in the field that appears and click Apply.
4. The list of items should then include the free “Free to the Public: Matt Harding & Sean Carroll” option.
5. Choose that one (and any others) and then complete the registration.

Thursday June 6: Opening night at the Seattle Science Festival features Brian Greene, Adam Frank, and me, under the stern but fair moderation of Jennifer Ouellette. Adam and I will give short talks, and Brian will show us the West Coast premiere of the multimedia performance Icarus at the Edge of Time.

Wednesday June 12: I’m giving a public lecture at Fermilab on particles, fields, and the future of physics. It’s part of the Fermilab Users’s Meeting, as well as a workshop on the International Linear Collider. Not sure if I’ve ever given a public talk that will have so many people ready to correct my mistakes.

After a couple more trips in July, my calendar actually does clear up, and I can look forward to uninterrupted vistas of productivity. Watch out!

Upgrading the Public Lecture Experience

Apologies for the extended radio silence here at the blog. (Originally typed “radio science,” which I suppose is an encouraging sign from my subconscious.) My time and attention has been taken up by an interesting phenomenon known as “real work.” I have four papers in almost-submittable rough draft form, another three projects bubbling along nicely, and one project in the “this result can’t be right because if it is right it would be really interesting and important and that never happens but hey you never know” stage. Feels good to be concentrating on research after a year with too much book writing, traveling, workshop organizing, etc.

Speaking of traveling, I spent last week in Australia, partly in Sydney and partly in Canberra. This trip owed its existence to two fortunate facts. First, back in graduate school my officemate was Brian Schmidt, who has since become an influential astronomer living in Australia (oh, and won the Nobel Prize for a little thing called the acceleration of the universe). Second, Brian and I like to make bets with each other, which I always win. (At least as of the current moment, with n=2.)

Our first bet, made back in grad school, was whether we would someday have a reliable measurement of Omega, the cosmological density parameter. We purchased a small bottle of vintage port and agreed that Brian would collect it if we didn’t have an agreed-upon value within 20 years, while I would collect it if we did. You have to remember that back in early 90’s, astronomers kept measuring numbers that implied the universe was open, while theorists kept insisting that it must be spatially flat on naturalness grounds. The controversy was largely ended by the discovery of cosmic acceleration, showing that both camps were right: astronomers had correctly measured the density of matter, but universe is essentially flat, the remainder being taken up by dark energy. Brian graciously conceded, but I’m sure King Carl Gustav consoled him on his defeat.

vineyard In 2009 Brian foolishly challenged me again, this time on whether physicists would eventually discover the Higgs boson at the LHC. His job is to play the curmudgeonly experimentalist, while I am the ever-optimistic theorist — so in July 2012, when CERN announced a new particle, Brian found himself once again in the role of gracious conceder. We’re all grown up by now, so the stakes were a bit larger: Brian donated some of his impressive store of frequent flyer miles to fly Jennifer and me to Australia, where I would give some talks. We had a great time, needless to say, including a visit to the vineyard where Brian makes his celebrated Maipenrai Pinot Noir. (Yes you read that correctly. He’s an energetic guy.)

But the real lesson I learned from the whole trip is: with a tiny amount of effort, it’s possible to turn the ordinary public lecture experience into something much more fun for the audience. Continue reading

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.