THANK YOU for the fantastic weekend everybody!! And, btw, CONGRATULATIONS REDDIT!!! You introduced Reddit to many of the greatest living scientists of our time. To paraphrase what many of them told me after the fact: "5/5. Would repeat."

Hi Reddit!

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Steven Weinberg’s world-changing publication, A Model of Leptons, the work that solidified what we now call “The Standard Model of Physics”, Case Western Reserve University is hosting a once-in-lifetime symposium this weekend that features talks from many of the most famous names in physics… including 8 Nobelists and over 20 scientists who have made immeasurable contributions to the “the most successful theory known to humankind.” We’re here to honor this world-changing scientific work, but perhaps most important of all, look to the next 50 years of probing the deepest mysteries of the Universe… what incredible wonders might be out there waiting to be discovered? Are we on the verge of solving the great mysteries of Dark Matter and Dark Energy? Will we soon know exactly what happened in the very first moments of our Universe’s birth? And… could a working theory of Quantum Gravity finally be within reach?


The talks will be live-streamed all weekend long here: Science Writer-Filmmaker /u/TonyLund will be hanging out in the live stream chat box to translate the science in real time.

But before we all get to work, we wanted to spend some time with you all! Ask us anything!

Live AMA participants:

  • (ADDED) Gerard ‘t Hooft — Theoretical Physicist. Winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize Gerard will be answering questions specifically directed towards him.

  • Glenn Starkman — Theoretical Physicist
    Conference Organizer.
    Distinguished Professor of Physics (Case Western Reserve University).
    Director of the Institute for the Science of Origins.
    Director of Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics.
    Research Questions: What is the Topology (“shape”) of the Universe? Could Dark Matter be made of quarks? If we produce miniature black holes in particle accelerators, how will we know?

  • Jerome Friedman — Experimental Physicist.
    Winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics for the experimental discovery of Quarks.
    Professor of Physics Emeritus (MIT)
    (Fmr.) Director of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science and Head of the MIT Physics Department.
    Research Focus: Particle structure and interaction. High Energy physics.

  • George F. Smoot III — Astrophysicist.
    Winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of anisotropy in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
    Professor (Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics)
    Senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Guest Star on The Big Bang Theory / Idol of Dr. Shelden Cooper
    Research Focus: Using the Cosmic Background Radiation o understand the structure and history of the Universe. Are we living in a simulation?

  • Jon Butterworth — Experimental Physicist
    Professor of Physics at University College London (UCL)
    Author of Smashing Physics
    Project Leader of the ATLAS “Standard Model Group" at the LHC at CERN
    Pioneered the first measurements of “Hadronic Jets”
    Winner of the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award
    Winner of the Chadwick Medal

  • Helen Quinn — Particle Physicist Professor Emeritus of Particle Physics and Astrophysics
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (Stanford University)
    Founder of "Peccei-Quinn theory"
    Current Focus: Science education
    Winner of the Dirac Medal, the Klein Medal, Sakuri Prize, the Compton Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal.

  • Bob Brown — Industrial Physicist
    Distinguished University Professor and Institute Professor (Case Western Reserve University)
    Leading pioneer of MRI, CT, PET, and medical radiation technology
    Incubated multiple research projects into full-scale technology companies
    Co-author of 10 patents.
    Research questions: How can new discoveries in particle physics be utilized to vastly improve health, the environment, and industry?

  • Mary K. Gaillard — Theoretical Physicist
    Professor Emeritus of Physics (UC Berkeley)
    Pioneer of the ground-breaking discovery of the strong interaction corrections to weak transitions.
    Successfully predicted the mass of the charmed quark.
    Successfully predicted 3-jet events in high energy particle accelerators.
    Successfully predicted the mass of the b-quark.
    Made history as UC Berkely’s first female physicist to receive tenure.
    Research questions: What are the fundamental building blocks of the Universe? Why do tiny particles behave so strangely? What are the exact rules the govern the mysterious tiny particles inside atoms?

  • Mark Wise — Theoretical Physicist
    Jon A. McCone Professor of High Energy Physics (CalTech)
    Discoverer of Heavy Quark Symmetry
    Winner of the 2001 Sakuri Prize
    Successfully predicted the decays of c and b flavored hadrons
    Science consultant to Marvel Studio's Iron Man 2
    Research Questions: How do quarks interact with other particles? How can cutting edge mathematics be used to make predictive models of financial markets and risk?

  • BJ Bjorken — Theoretical Physicist
    Professor Emeritus at the SLAC National Laboratory (Stanford University)
    Discoverer of “Bjorken Scaling” which successfully predicted quarks as physical objects.
    Winner of the Dirac Medal
    Winner of the Wolf Prize
    Winner of the EPS High Energy Physics Prize
    Author of the seminal Relativistic Quantum Fields and Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
    Research Questions: What are quarks?

  • Corbin Covault — Experimental Astrophysicist
    Professor (Case Western Reserve University)
    Pioneer of ground-based observational techniques to study high-energy cosmic radiation
    Research questions: What are the physics of the strange high-energy cosmic rays coming from deep space, and where do they come from? Do they pose a threat to life on Earth?

  • Harsh Mathur — Theoretical Physicist
    Professor (Case Western Reserve University)
    Leading researcher of quantum manybody physics, Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.
    Expert on deep mathematics inherent in modern art
    Expert on the statistical physics inherent to evolution of human language

  • Pavel Fileviez Perez — Theoretical Physicist
    Assistant Professor (Case Western Reserve University)
    Expert of physics theories beyond the standard model

  • Kurt Hinterbichler — Theoretical Physicist
    Assistant Professor (Case Western Reserve University)
    Expert on early Universe cosmology
    Expert on modified and alternative gravity theories

  • Norman Christ — Computational Physicist
    Ephraim Gildor Professorship of Computational Theoretical Physics (Columbia University)
    Pioneer of the groundbreaking LatticeQCD approach to simulating strong interactions
    Winner of the Gordon Bell Prize
    Developmental leader of IBM’s QCDOC Super Computer project to achieve 10Tflops.

  • Benjamin Monreal — Experimental Physicist
    Associate Professor (Case Western Reserve University)
    Expert Neutrino hunter
    Pioneer of cyclotron radiation electron spectroscopy
    Expert on next-generation neutrino detectors

  • Anthony Lund — Science Writer & Filmmaker
    Co-creator of “A Light in the Void” science symphony concert with composer Austin Wintory
    Writer-Director for “Through the Wormhole: With Morgan-Freeman”
    Co-Executive Producer of “National Geographic: Breakthrough”

Comments: 1365 • Responses: 12  • Date: 

azlhiacneg475 karma

What is it like being a physicist?

BJBjorken1720 karma

Theoretical physics is a socially acceptable form of mental illness.

TonyLund688 karma

The voices in my head would disagree strongly with your claims, good doctor!

Tats1998396 karma

What would you say is the most promising not yet proven theory?

rednirgskizzif158 karma

6 years ago they would have screamed SuSy before the first comment dropped.

TonyLund109 karma

Upvoting this

velcrorex180 karma

What are some career paths from a physics undergrad that don't involve grad school?

TonyLund58 karma

Come to Hollywood or otherwise go make movies, content, fiction, non-fiction, or other media!! It certainly worked out for James Cameron.

buckeyeboomerang136 karma

What is the most expensive piece of equipment you have broken during an experiment?

PavelFileviezPerez157 karma

Never, I do theory ;)

TonyLund338 karma

Reminds me of an old joke... There was once a provost who called in all the experimental physicists into his office screaming "LOOK AT THIS BUDGET!! Why do you need these expensive equipment? Why can't you be like the Theorists... ALL THE NEED ARE PENS, PAPER, AND WASTEBASKETS!! You're all fired!!"

Months later, he calls in all the theorists into this office screaming "LOOK AT THIS BUDGET!! Why can't you be like the philosophy department? All they need are PENS AND PAPER!!"

Chtorrr31 karma

What are your thoughts on pineapple as a pizza topping?

TonyLund92 karma

would you trust people who eat that with your children???

SeaWhole20 karma

What are you guy's views on religion? Do any of you believe in God?

TonyLund50 karma

Most physicists aren't religious, but many are! Ultimately, the quest of science concerns itself with all that can be physically measured... Science has little to say about what we personally experience, so nearly all scientists (including ones that believe in God) would say that science does not concern itself with God.

buckeyeboomerang11 karma

What is your favorite 'surprising fact' relating to physics?

TonyLund71 karma

One really forgets just how many tiny little atoms there are in everyday things.... and just how much those atoms disperse throughout everything else... every time you exhale, at least one atom from that the breath will come into contact with 99% of ALL PLANT LIFE ON EARTH within ONE YEAR.

MaryKGaillard15 karma

I was surprised that gravitational waves were seen already due to much more activity in the universe than anybody expected.

TonyLund23 karma

Ooooo!! Stay tuned to the LIGO collaboration... they'll be dropping some big papers this year (I am sworn to secrecy, so I can't say more)

aravindpaz10 karma

Hello all !

Just had one question. I am a graduate student in astrophysics with multiple interests. I am interested in astrophysics ( duh !), theoretical physics and also the theory of numbers. Is having a wide range of interests self-hurting ? Is it possible to dabble into these fields even though I am an astrophysicist by training ?


TonyLund44 karma

One of us (not telling who) just yelled "GET OFF REDDIT AND GET BACK TO WORK!" :)

idm02137 karma

As of right now, how impossible is time travel?

TonyLund32 karma

Depends on what direction. Time travel to the future (where you stay about the same age and everybody else gets much older) is 100% confirmed to be permissible by the laws of the nature, though quite difficult in practice to achieve in appreciable effects.

Time travel to the past appears to be much more difficult... if not entirely impossible. Best idea I've heard so far: travel at FTL velocities via method that does result in your ship turning into a black hole (there are many ideas on how one might do this) and travel some linear distance from your starting point. Then, observe the light coming to you from Earth. Viola! You are now observing the past without worrying about stepping on a butterfly and coming back to future only to see that that Donald Trump has become president or something equally crazy.

buckeyeboomerang5 karma

What is the best evidence we currently have to support the Standard Model?

TonyLund16 karma

As far as I can tell, nobody's found a way to break it yet... and we've had a good 50 years of constant effort!

On a more technical note, it keeps producing beautiful symmetries that suggest we're all on the right path to understanding the deepest mysteries of nature.

basicnamebasiclady3 karma

Why did you all pursue physics?

TonyLund8 karma

for the same reason why people fall in love with reading... literature shows you the poetry of the human experience; physics shows you the poetry of the physical universe that we all live in... and are all made of... so, to put it bluntly... it's a hit of the pure stuff, ya feel?