Lisa Randall, Harvard physicist

WGBH broadcast this ThoughtCast interview, and also features it on their “Science Luminaries” series, as part of “WGBH Science City.” It was also broadcast on WCAI/WNAN, public radio stations for the Cape and Islands.

Professor Randall is a theoretical particle physicist who sees past the rest of us to a world of extra dimensions and parallel universes. Hers is a world of warped geometry, sink-holes and branes — a world that fills glaring gaps in current thinking, and can finally explain why gravity is so ‘weak’!

Now while this might sound like so much Greek — just wait. Randall’s latest book, written for the layman, is called “Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions” — so she’s had plenty of practice explaining these high-flying ideas to English majors.

Click here: to listen (28:30 mins).

Click here to listen to Lisa Randall’s lecture at IDEAS Boston on the WGBH Forum Network.

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35 Responses to Lisa Randall, Harvard physicist

  1. david lenher iii June 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    It appears that string theory like God is built on the faith that they exist.

  2. Noel Schablik October 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    I just disposed of (threw away) Knocking on Heaven’s Gate, after the first 75 pages. How utterly contemptuous of Ms. Randall to lecture me on religion and the presence or absence of a God. These first 75 pages were nothing more than a monologue on why those of us who believe in religion (not necessarily the creation theory) are ignorant and can’t understand her science.
    This was very unfortunate for me. I had hoped to read some exciting and stimulating scientific verse. Instead, I was told I am ignorant for having a belief in religion and wouldn’t be able to comprehend or accept her theories.
    There always will be things science can’t explain.

  3. vanhellslinger October 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    WLisa Randall’s “How Science Can Lead the Way”
    Time magazine 10-3-11

    She starts off by suggesting all politicians are using religion to get votes, and later in the story it becomes clear she was only talking about right wing Republicans. In her second paragraph she suggests there are those that want both science and religion to work together, but that it can’t be. We never hear much from the Lisa Randall’s on the “other” religion that does try to blend it all, that being alien god‘s, Anunnaki Sumerian writings, UFO-ology, and the sci-fi links, etc., to god and religion?

    Then near the end of her rant it all becomes clear, she is just another left wing liberal pundit, plugging for Obama, fingers crossed in hopes of a big grant or appointment. Obama a science advocate? Now can Lisa explain why Obama ignored the CDC statistics that have proven time and time again that homosexuality is nothing more than a disease, instead declaring it a civil right? One in five gay males are infected with AIDS, and MRSA is growing and mutating into the new gay plague, we know that millions died from Aids, and patient zero, gaeten dugas was personally responsible for it’s spread by having thousands of sex partners, and Lisa wants to call that a civil right?

    Sure right wing zealots ignore global warming, at least they have enough logic to know nothing can be done about it. The astronaut God/King, Jehovah Elohim, a real life Klaatu, (The Day the Earth Stood Still) has predicited with his science that we will have our Armageddon. It appears we all pick and choose which science to support. Soft science, psychology, psychiatry, sociology has a strong support from the left, vs. parapsychology, archeology relevant to alien visitation, etc. that finds it’s way into creationist teachings, there is no doubt they both can find major points to ponder. At least with the conservative right science we will probably never have a Hendrick Schon, or a Martin Rees that gets millions to tell us his theory of the universe, one that will never be proven in a million years.
    ell this is what I thought of her recent Time Mag cemmentary:

  4. Khalid Masood September 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Lisa Randall is professor of theoretical physics and studies particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University.
    She was the first tenured woman in the Princeton University physics department and the first tenured female theoretical physicist at MIT and Harvard University.
    Her research concerns elementary particles and fundamental forces and has involved the development and study of a wide variety of models, the most recent involving extra dimensions of space.
    She has made breakthrough advances in understanding and testing the most recent physical theories.
    She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Physical Society.
    Professor Randall was among Esquire Magazine’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century”.
    Prof. Randall was featured in Newsweek, Time, New York Times, and Seed Magazines as “One of the most promising theoretical physicists of her generation”.
    Her insight of the “PHYSICAL UNIVERSE” is wonderful.
    Professor Lisa Randall deserve the title “MISS PHYSICAL UNIVERSE”!!!
    I recommend this title for Professor Lisa Randall.

  5. Ron Crockett August 8, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Have been re-looking for this podcast, for the quote,about sitting on the couch or driving and have solutions or good ideas arise.
    After approximately 30 years of training and learning about your talent, it is rather nice to hear you give those insights. Have you had this internalized high-speed flow of ideas, since early Harvard days, say?
    When I think of all the work, the thinking, the accomodating, the formalizing, I am much in awe of your persistence and success.
    However, my admiration for you centers more on your attempts to bring non-scientists into the coonversation of understanding what science is about and that science is really for everyone. The paths we travel in life are chosen for one or two reasons or a multitude. But not generally for aptitude, but for a reason of the other side of life. Your attempts to improve people’s ability to rationalize those choices cannot but help to improve our society in many broad ways.
    And I also admire you for making clear that women can and should be adding their talents to the searching for improving life on this planet.
    Having had six daughters I am especially sensitive to this aspect of our lives.
    Your interview on Perimeter was the best I have seen and I recommend readers of this comment to listen to your comments there,
    Well done Dr Randall. It has been a pleasure to have known of your work and to have followed your career, even if for a short time.

  6. Velaithan Sukumaran June 20, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    I am at a loss as to why such a lot of money is wasted on the Large Hadron Collider. I am sorry to say that scientists and physicists working on this program at CERN have not understood the reality. I mean the reality that is unknown. They have been laboring under the illusion that there is a god particle or Higgs particle. Okay. Let’s assume there is one. Next we create the kind of Big Bang by using a super particle accelerator. Okay. What’s next. What if the outcome is a colossal amount of money lost?
    As for the book by Randall there are no warped passages in this universe. Because extra dimensions don’t exist in a warped condition. They might exist in a vacuum that’s not visible to the naked eye.

    At least will the scientific community answer a simple question like “Is gravity a dimension?” To my knowledge we are still in that Newtonian era of “an apple fell on my head”. In the first instance the very conception of dimension as it’s now is wrong. It must be redefined to include the all pervasive nature of dimensions.

    As far as I know there are 12 dimensions. I am not a physicist. But I know these dimensions with exact accuracy. Time has three dimensions. In such a situation it’s futile to try emulating “big bang”.

  7. Fred March 23, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I was surprised how pleasant she was – I figured one of the top minds on the planet might not be so receptive, but it was great interview.

    If I could ask her one question, it would be what about the line of thought that the only rule is there are no rules? I wonder if I would be re-buffed for that as nonsensical, or if she would say in a way that’s the approach … to a certain point.

  8. Tony March 12, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Just stick with the DANG SCIENCE, forget about social gender roles, etc, etc….

  9. Robert Wolfson November 6, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    I should have mentioned a problem which I have seen expressed by someone else, who I cannot remember. If two galaxies are far enough apart then they (one, maybe both—it is hard to say) would be moving apart faster than the speed of light. Relativity theory forbids greater-than-light velocity of motion, for material objects. It also forbids that velocity for electromagnetic radiation, which is to say, it forbids that velocity for light. So, where are we? It makes sense, because energy (that is, electromagnetic radiation) and matter, are really the same thing. Perhaps matter and information (signals, i.e. electromagnetic radiation) are not the same. The only way out of this seems to me what is suggested by entanglement. That is, another universe, or a wormhole, probably the former. But how do they connect? Or, horrors, is Relativity incomplete? I don’t have the math to deal with Relativity, but this appears to be common sense.

  10. Robert Wolfson November 6, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    I read WARPED PASSAGES probably four or five years ago, found it fascinating, have been reading lots since. I am not a physicist, but have been thinking and reading semi-pro physics and cosmology. I must be an agnostic about extra dimensions and other universes. But I offer the following thoughts, some speculative, some more based in fact…..And some questions.

    1. Given Hubble’s finding that galaxies are moving away from each other more rapidly, the farther apart they are, and the undeniable fact that we exist in a 4-dimensional manifold, it would seem that our universe is part, or all. of the surface of a higher-dimensional manifold. Q. What, if anything, goes on in the interior of that higher-dimensional manifold?
    2. I draw a blank in trying to understand Dark Matter. But mightn’t Dark Energy be the result of our being in a universe which is rotating (Goedel’s model) in a multiverse environment? Thus, the centrifugal force would cause our universe to expand.

    I ought to tell you that many years ago, I earned a B.SC. (University of Chicago, 1947) in math and physics. Then I took a PhD in economics, and spent my career as an academic economist. But I seem to have this active mind, and time on my hands since my retirement in 1993. Hence. . .

  11. Walt Godek March 31, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m a Jersey Guy with plenty of time to think, especially on my walks on Allamuchy mountain. Regarding the Hadron Collider research and that marvelous billion million megapixel camera detection thingie, which is in our bane and bound by our rules. How can it measure and detect something that isn’t? Don’t we have to detect singularities instead? Shouldn’t we build instrumentation that detect finite gravity disruptions? In other words paint a gravity detection matrix around the event and attempt to detect disruptions caused by a singularity as it LEAVES our bane, in which it cannot exist anyway. There should be some kind of “rip” or ripple in the gravity fabric. If you need help with anything feel free to email me… I’m going to order your book right now… Have a great Day!

  12. john bracher March 31, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    saw her on charlie rose – ordered book -anxiously awaiting

  13. Sergio Campos February 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Como aficionado a la Astrofísica, he leído en el tema Neutrinos y las 11 dimensiones, que se refiere a los experimentos efectuados en los últimos años a altas energías (1016 millones electrón voltios), los cuales demostraron que las fuerzas electromagnéticas, la fuerte y la débil, obedecían las mismas leyes. Desde entonces se postula que, a 1019, todas las fuerzas de la naturaleza -incluyendo la gravedad- obedecerían las mismas leyes. En los interrogantes expuestos se basa uno de los tantos intereses por construir Colisionadores de potencias elevadas como las LHC-CERN.
    En la nota se indica que desde otra instancia,la Dra. Lisa Randall, tiene una teoría revolucionaria para comprender la elusiva gravedad. Ella piensa que esta desarrolla una fuerza enorme en la dimensión 11, a consecuencia de lo cual, sus efectos son relativamente débiles en nuestro universo demostrando interrelaciones interdimensionales y que la resolución de ciertos problemas de nuestro universo están fuera de el.
    La teoría de las supercuerdas plantea la existencia de un espacio-tiempo con 11 dimensiones, un hecho que de probarse cambiaria la física, porque las dimensiones extras, podrían albergar universos sin electrones, sin protones, sin o con otro tipo de humanos, con leyes físicas diferentes a las nuestras,
    El planteamiento es fascinante, y aparte del interes personal en seguir investigando, deseo expresar mi admiración, felicitando a la la Dra. Randall por enaltecer a la mujer y sembrar una semilla en la juventud femenina para que decidan en su momento, decidir su destino estudiando una carrera tan hermosa.

  14. THAKERNG MOOLMA January 20, 2010 at 4:55 am #

    Hi Lisa may I ask you one question? Are you thinking “BOSONS” or “FERMIONS”? I really want to know. Please give me the way it should be. My target is ‘THEORY OF EVERYTHING’. Your appriciate. “NIRVANA”

  15. Javed Ansari October 15, 2009 at 3:55 am #

    Hi Jenny,
    I happened to stumble into your website ‘Thoughtcast’ and found it very informative and educative, considering you focus on some very interesting people and topics. I just listened to your interview of Prof. Lisa Randall. It was very well conducted, especially when you ask some of those tricky questions so artfully. I intend to follow your website with more regularity in future.
    I am writing from Karachi, Pakistan.

  16. John S Pettus August 6, 2009 at 9:32 pm #

    Hello, again Dr Randall,
    Thank you for signing my soft cover “Warped Passages”, 02/22/08, SLC. I’ve learned a lot by reading your book. ‘Till we meet again, JSP, “unexpected particle”.

  17. Ed Hess August 4, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    While listening I kept thinking about Ouspensky’s “A New Model of the Universe” where 3 dimensions of space and 3 diemensions of time expand and contract in accordance with the size of the reference body. The 80 year life of a man is “a moment of perception for the sun”.

    The second dimension of time is the “eternal now” and the third dimension of time is the set of all the possibilities at any moment. I don’t know how well his ideas hold up under modern experimental physics, but they always have resonated with me.

  18. Michael R. Himes February 27, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    Large Hadron Collider whilst colliding particles, what of leaks to other dimensions at such high energy? Consider magnetic eddys along the paths that reconnect with the resonant megnetosphere/Earth dipole. Would this indeed provide a path to another dimension? Once initiated could such a leak be controlled? I am not convinced the reconnect issue is as controlled as we have been led to believe.

  19. Rudy Kerven February 4, 2009 at 8:47 am #

    What I like most about Professor Randall is the effort she brings to the game. She remains the enthusiast. She is obviously exceedingly bright. There is also something of a slugging it out smart about “Warped passages”. I liked Nigel’s observation. One wonders how completely willing she would be to abandon the current theories. She’s blessed with talent.

  20. gregory lomb January 26, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    I am a reader, not a physicist, but I am entranced, captivated and obsessed with wanting to understand gravity (the what and the how). I read and read and search and search for better and better material and explanations and theory as to why gravity is and why it is as it is.
    I like to read books written by as many authorities on the subject of gravity, as well as all other branches of physics, as I see all branches related in on way or another and I do not want to leave one particle unturned under which may lay the answer.
    I had wanted to read a book written by you for some time and I finally picked up a copy of your book “Warped Passages” which I am reading now.
    While reading your book, I was once again thinking about gravity and, for the thousandth time, listening to what another physicist had to say regarding that perplexing question as to why gravity is the weakest of the four forces, and I thought to myself, “what if there are really only three forces and gravity is merely residue of the strong force.” What if the reach of the strong force extends further then believed. What if the strain of holding matter together is so great that, like an evaporating-black hole, matter and the strong force holding it in shape, “leaks.” And, what if that “leak” is what we experience as gravity. Of course, thinking like that is not only off the known path of physics, but over the cliff. Just a thought, though.

    gregory p. lomb,

    PS: “Warped Passages” is a well-written book and very enjoyable reading for lay people like myself.

  21. spencer November 16, 2008 at 12:42 am #

    i saw lisa on charlie rose, so i read warped passages. it was fascinating. the brane stuff.

  22. Bruce Amaro September 21, 2008 at 8:27 pm #

    I’m interested in this comment from an interview with Dr. Randall in the London Sunday Times from purely novice curiosity, “Yet Einstein, she points out, had little idea about the practical uses of the general theory of relativity but it now forms a key component of GPS (global positioning satellite) technology.”

    The idea that the theory of relativity “forms a key component of GPS” might answer a question I have about GPS signals.

    Again, I write this as a non-scientist who uses GPS for mapping and other environmental pursuits.

    Thank you.
    Bruce Amaro

  23. GordonC September 15, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    I knew I wasn’t smart enough, but I slogged, with considerable discomfort, through “Warped Passages,” which is about two brains separated by an infinite dementia.

  24. Amelia February 24, 2008 at 11:27 am #

    I cannot wait to read what the LHC will present when they collide protons. It would be great if they detect the Higgs particle as well as the graviton. They may also find out if gravitons spend most of their time in other dimensions.
    Regards, Amelia.

  25. John February 19, 2008 at 7:27 pm #

    This is the first book like it I have bought. I avoided hard stuff like this when I was in school, and over the years my work kept me too busy to just read things for fun. What is really hard for me is reading about things where there is no answer to why something is doing what it’s doing. Dr. Randall’s book seems to be saying that all she can do is describe how things do what they do, and while that is very cool, I’m left with kind of an empty feeling afterwards–like I’m missing the end of a story.

  26. BitSmasher February 13, 2008 at 3:26 am #

    All the good stuff happening in particle physics and cosmology makes me wish I could rewind the clock about 30 years. I’m sure if I could I’d wind up in particle physics or cosmology. Very exciting times. While I don’t have the advanced mathematics, I do have the interest. Keep up the good work!!!

  27. Jason Webster January 15, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    Lisa Randall is a leading expert in extra-dimensionality. Having read her book, she has surpassed everyones expectations, and what charisma. It is very pleasing listening to her.

  28. Amelia Young July 6, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    I think Dr Randall is a great physicist. I now have a whole new world opened up to me, thanks to her. Unfortunately my Husband does’nt have a clue what I’m talking about, quite honestly nobody does! I’m really hooked on her theories.
    Kind Regards

  29. Taofeek March 19, 2007 at 8:18 am #

    Have heard lisa on a couple of interviews and i do think she’s a genius!
    if gravitons really do exist and escape to other dimensions then maybe there’s a way of trapping some just before they do escape and using them to communicate with anyone that might be in there!
    mind blowing.

  30. luis fernando March 18, 2007 at 2:05 pm #

    If gravity is stronger in other dimensions, life would be very different. Humans would have to be more strong to support the pressure of it…

  31. James Anderson January 7, 2007 at 10:35 pm #

    Mercy me!
    Although I have seen this woman expounding some of her theories several times on various cable networks I have not had so much information from her all at once. That has made me inquire further into her ideas regarding gravity (or the lack therof), string and brane possibilities. Amazing!
    Kind of like backward engineering applied to hypothetical inversities.
    Although her preponderences are certainly boggling to me, she strikes a wonderful chord. Strings resonating?

  32. Nicholas Roach December 13, 2006 at 2:04 am #

    Communication has its own multitude of branes here in this puny three dimensional pocket. Sometimes I can’t believe how many branes I feel exist; When this one is so bleepin’ ignorant and hard to cope with, it makes the Universe(s) so grand. You go girl, uh-um I mean Dr. Randall.

    ~ NMR
    (not Nuclear Magnetic Resonation)
    ~ Nicholas Michael Roach

  33. Ian Consterdine November 12, 2006 at 2:51 pm #

    If Lisa Randall is not a super-symmetric twin of mine then i guess no one is. ed. 🙂

  34. Paul Kuchynskas September 15, 2006 at 6:01 pm #

    Lisa Randall reminds us that ideas come from “warped passages.” It is not always that we come to understand by following someone else’s line of reasoning. We can come across ideas accidentally; it is a lot of ideas flowing in and across from different directions, and how someone reaches a particular point can be very different. Secondly, we can honor Adonis and Aphrodite, and be pleaseantly surprised that Prof. Randall reflects Aphrodite, and is not another non-Adonis male professor. For both of these reasons, how refreshing her appearance is!


  35. Nigel Cook April 12, 2006 at 6:13 am #

    Thank you very much, the podcast was very enjoyable.

    Especially where you asked Dr Randall about her belief in extra dimensions, and she replied:

    “But I’m still skeptical … I’m willing to be proven wrong.”

    This is a very exciting subject, and I hope you will visit it again.


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