I went to see the 2007 George Gamow Lecture at CU last night, where the speaker was Harvard physics wiz Lisa Randall. (BTW, how cool is it being in a place where a freakin’ physics lecture can draw 1,500 people?) Dr. Randall studies particle physics and cosmology, and as the link explains, her talk last night focused on some of the mind-bending implications of string theory.
In essence, the posit is that string theory helps explain the problem of why gravity is 16 orders of magnitude weaker than it ought to be. She and a collaborator demonstrated back in the 1990s that the apparent discrepancy is nicely explained by the theoretical existence of multiple dimensions, and that the force of gravity as we experience it results from the fact that its existence lies on a parallel “brane,” and at this point I’ll just point those of you interested in an informed explanation of the theory to stories in the NY Times, Discover, ScienceWatch and ESI Special Topics. Knock yourself out.
If I understood Dr. Randall more or less correctly, the upshot is that we inhabit a multi-dimensional universe – or one multi-dimensional universe out of possibly many – and that forces from beyond our universe act on our physical laws. They’re currently ramping up to some massive supercollider research in Europe in the next few years that may let them actually prove this and/or related theories.
At the end of her speech there was the predictable clot of people lined up at the microphones in each aisle to ask questions, and since I was sitting way in the back of beautiful Macky Auditorium, I never had a chance. But if I’d had the opportunity and inclination, here’s the question I’d love to have posed:
Dr. Randall, your research sure raises some intriguing theological issues, huh?
I suspect that might have gotten a chuckle, at which point I’d have been hauled out by security.
But think about it. All of a sudden you have physical demonstration of something like a five-dimensional black hole and evidence that extra-dimensional forces explain our odd gravity conundrum. This ought to really mess with the “Earth is 6000 years old” crowd. More interestingly, though – how long will it take some segment of the Intelligent Design camp to step up and claim that the reseach actually proves the existence of God?
It’s an annoying commentary on the state of things that even though nobody was talking about it last night, I walked out wondering why not, because it’s certainly only a matter of time. Science is theology. Science is politics.
I can’t wait, can I?