Saturday, August 16, 2014

Al Jazeera's interview with Andrei Linde

Two weeks ago, Al Jazeera America – a TV station that Al Gore sued yesterday even though it has paid huge money to him for his worthless crappy pseudo TV station – talked to Andrei Linde about the beginning of time:

A 25-minute video

Linde started by explaining why inflation is revolutionary – why it makes the unreasonably huge and accurate explosion required by the Big Bang moderate and natural, requiring no immense amount of matter ("explosive") to start with a requiring no fine-tuned initial state.

He wants to describe the evolution of various quantities in some detail. Instead of a box of candies, you have a box of nothings. ;-) This is cheating but that's how it works! Listen to the interview to learn more.

Linde gets to the eternal inflation and the multiverse, too. He compares the multiverse to the conglomerate of different countries – regions that are uniform but that have different particle spectra at low energies. The underlying laws of physics – string theory – are universal but the manifestations are numerous, much like different phases of H2O.

The Stanford cosmologist says that we may be getting close to learning almost everything about the Universe that may be learned – but never say never. Linde compares the situation to the "end of geography" that came after Columbus (and perhaps Magellan).

Linde would never say "exactly" to the idiosyncratic explanations by the interviewer even though most of his comments were reasonably OK for a layman. When the guy said that the Universe was 18 billion years old, Linde wouldn't allow this mistake to remain uncorrected. It's 14 and not 18 but who cares? ;-)

The host asks whether this physics makes Linde think about our place in the scheme of things and Linde says that indeed, it's the most important aspect for him to think about – more important than some technicalities. Is it troubling or exhilarating for Linde to realize how small we are relatively to the Universe?

At the end, Linde says why he's afraid of the future of science. Is he worried about the decreasing number of students? Linde says that there's a worry but keeps it in the perspective. Much of the funding before 1989 was inflated thanks to the Cold War so it's natural that there has to be some recent decrease. However, the money is still extremely effectively spent. Linde also says that back in the USSR, there was a very big respect to good education and parents wanted it for their kids; he luckily attended a special school with enhanced mathematics and physics.

If you allow yourself to relax just a little bit, your previously flourishing culture will disappear into nothingness, Linde says at the end, warning about the lethal threat of having just good physics teachers instead of excellent ones (while generously remaining silent about those who suck). Without excellent physics, your civilization starts to repeat itself and will crumble onto itself.

And that's my memo, too.

P.S.: If you want to see how a Russian TV station produces lectures on cosmology by Linde (in Russian), check e.g. this 1st episode of the Brief History of the Universe. Pretty cool! I hope that some of the readers will be so intrigued that they will watch the second episode, too.

One rouble is about 1/36 USD or 1/2 a Czech crown (I remember it used to be 10 Czechoslovak crowns LOL) so this is close to a 50-cent stamp.

Remotely related (to the respect to science in Russia): Yakov Zeldovich was born 100 years ago, worked on the Russian nuclear bombs and other issues of nuclear physics (prediction of beta decay of pion, for example), originated the insight that GR implies gravitational lensing, explained key things to Hawking in Moscow in 1973 which allowed Hawking to discover the Hawking radiation, co-discovered the inverse Compton scattering of the CMB, and was just reproduced on a new Russian stamp.

Students such as Guth and Linde are listening to their guru and trying to remember what they should do to have a hope that at least one of them will be once mentioned in a footnote of a paper about the curvature of the constitutional space, too.


  1. Diversity can save science! If science were 118.3% women (gender re-assignment), it would flourish,

    (One presumes my four line Comment posted in rebuttal will not appear)

  2. Mama always said life was like a box of nothings, you never know what you're gonna get.

  3. david hunter towAug 17, 2014, 9:22:00 AM

    Andrei Linde just demonstrated why the art/science of communication is such a critical adjunct to just teaching a topic in a textbook boring way

    Each of the students watching his presentation were riveted /swirched on by his quiet authoratitive words and metaphors- no need for excessive histrionics or ultra graphics.

    If the world is to encourage the best potential young physicists/scientists- pre- training in science communicaton should be mandatory for those entrusted with teaching them.

  4. Lubos,

    Thanks for the link to Vladimir Vysotsky: He's brilliant! (he is new descovery to me, from your post)

    The picture of Obama: Not so good...

  5. Uncle Al,

    Diversity; wasn't that Chip Bolden's charge from Obama? That he (director of NASA) was specially charged by Obama to remind the children of Arabs of their special place in the history of science? The "first most important task" that he was given?

  6. There was an awful video of Bolden, saying that silly thing about the great scientific heritage of Arab children, out there a few years ago. It was stupid and silly way back then; now it's not silly...