Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. His papers on dark matter and dark energy, the physics of extra dimensions, and alternative theories of gravity have been widely praised. he is also one of the founders of the group blog cosmicvariance.com. His book on time and entropy is From Eternity to Here.
The best thing about science is the sense of surprise. Human imagination is a powerful force, and we can invent all kinds of crazy ideas. But studying the universe teaches us things we never would have come up with on our own. Science lets us peer into corners of the universe that are incredibly far from our everyday experience, and the amazing thing is that we are eventually able to understand what’s going on.
Why this book?
Time is familiar; we all use it every day. But there are still mysteries that surround it. One of the deepest mysteries – “Why is the past different from the future?” – leads us directly to thinking about the origin of the universe. Studying the nature of time is a great way to start with the world immediately around us, take seriously what we observe, and end up thinking about some of the biggest questions out there.
Mostly I’m doing research, thinking about the role of time in quantum field theory as well as approaches to the very beginning of the universe. If I do write another book, it might be about connecting the laws of nature to the meaning of life. (No reason not to think big.)
What’s exciting you at the moment?
I love the fact that physics is a constantly shifting field; excitement moves from problem to problem as we come up with new ideas and are surprised by new data. There are a bunch of experiments running right now that could have a huge impact — searches for new particles, new forces, dark matter, gravitational waves. I’m looking forward to having some of our cherished ideas overturned by harsh reality. That’s when things get exciting.