Renowned physicist Lisa Randall discusses dark matter
Lucy Lynch | Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Acclaimed scientist and author Lisa Randall discussed particle physics and her recent book,“Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe” with Notre Dame physicist Ani Aprahamian on Tuesday night.
Aprahamian began the conversation by asking Randall why she enjoys the difficult work of particle physics. Randall, a member of the physics faculty at Harvard University, noted how difficult physics is to understand and how she hopes to change that notion with her works.
“It’s great that it’s reported on, but it’s hard to get to the meat of it. It’s important to remind people that women are doing this too,” said Randall.
Much of Randall’s work focuses on elementary particles, extra dimensions and black matter. She said her thoughts on the field of science as a whole reflect the difficult and precise nature of her studies.
“This is the continuous story of science,” said Randall. “We think that we know everything and we forget that there is something more behind it.”
Considering Randall’s rigorous research of the topics of dark matter and alternate dimensions, Aprahamian said he was interested to hear Randall’s opinion of the hit 2014 film “Interstellar” which explores the complex topics of wormholes and black holes. Randall said she had organized a group of other physicists to discuss the legitimacy of the science presented in Christopher Nolan’s movie.
“The movie directors aimed to make science that could conceivably be true and not be demonstrably false,” said Randall. “The story at times could be contrite, but for the most part, it was real science.”
Randall was asked by Aprahamian to give attending students academic and advice for their future careers. Addressing future scientists in the room, Randall said it was important to be confident when attempting to solve a question.
“People should know how to think like a scientist and evaluate a fact from an alternative fact,” said Randall.
Aprahamian proceeded to ask Randall about her recent book which asserts that dark matter may have contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs. One student in the crowd asked Randall to simplify her hypothesis for those without a background in physics.
“I talk about how we know dark matter exists,” said Randall. “It clumps together like matter, it interacts with gravity like matter, but it doesn’t interact with light.”
Randall says that although we cannot see this phenomenon, we can use astrophysical measurements to learn more about what dark matter is. She said the lack of an answer is not synonymous with its lack of importance.
“We won’t have the answer to everything,” said Randall. “That doesn’t mean it isn’t important, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”