Just one example of why the Society of Fellows at Harvard made me humble

After I got my Ph.D. in economics, I had the incredible luck to get to spend three years at something called the Harvard Society of Fellows. It is an interdisciplinary academic club which draws top young scholars from across a wide array of disciplines whose only obligation is to do great research and drink expensive wine.

One of the people I got to talk to there was the physicist Lisa Randall, who recently wrote a pop physics book entitled “Warped Passages” that seems to be selling well.

This passage describing Lisa Randall’s first insight into a problem from a recent New York Times profile of her brought back fond memories of my conversations at the Society of Fellows (or more accurately, listening to other people having conversations, because I was so confused that I couldn’t even be part of it):

“What they drew pictures of was a kind of Oreo cookie multiverse, an architecture similar to one first discovered as a solution of the string equations by Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study and Petr Horava, now at Berkeley. Dr. Randall and Dr. Sundrum’s model consisted of a pair of universes, four-dimensional branes, thinly separated by a five-dimensional space poetically called the bulk.

When they solved the equations for this setup, they discovered that the space between the branes would be warped. Objects, for example, would appear to grow larger or smaller and get less massive or more massive as they moved back and forth between the branes. Such a situation, they realized to their surprise, could provide a natural explanation for the hierarchy problem without invoking supersymmetry. Suppose, they said, that gravity is actually inherently as strong as the other forces, but because of the warping gravity is much much stronger on one of the branes than on the other one, where we happen to live. So we experience gravity as extremely weak.

“You can be only a modest distance away from the gravity brane,” Dr. Randall said, “and gravity will be incredibly weak.” A result was a natural explanation for why atomic forces outgun gravity by 10 million billion to 1. Could this miracle be true? Crazy as it sounded, they soon discovered an even more bizarre possibility. The fifth dimension could actually be infinite and we would not have noticed it.

And believe it or not, I was better able to understand the physicists than the literary types. I still don’t get what Postmodernism is.


Bruce Johnson's SOA(P) Box

Not enough to retire on, but still...

semivoid

Dr Levitt,
Perhaps you could leave a review on Amazon? I wonder how many books your review might help sell.

This is serious though. If you enjoy the book enough to post a blog entry dedicated to it then it should follow that you write a smaller entry. Hey! You might attract some more Freakonomics followers. Or groupies. Hmm.

Robert Schwartz

The real question is how could you keep your concentration around her?

econopete

Postmodernism is just literature after modernism. I don't see what the confusion is about.

Really though, I think it's a fancy word meaning "Group of people who hate materialism, object to elitists' view of art, and make it impossible for rational people to figure out."

michelle

Postmodernism,
the disturbances
that quake the core,
the boundaries when
borders are no more.

its...

More or less a mess
in a never-never land
where everything somehow leads to freud
and with that contemporized
hyperthrophied explanations
that wind everything
back to sex

Dossy's Blog

The world gets closer to proving my "donut shaped universe" theory!

Back in the 1990's, I formulated a theory that the universe is "donut shaped" -- well, I said "toroidal" which most people I hung out with at the time would probably have to look up the definition of, so I...

jennyattiyeh

Dear Steven,
I enjoyed your post on the Society of Fellows. Actually, I'm going to be interviewing Lisa Randall shortly on "Warped Passages" for my podcast interview program on authors and academics called ThoughtCast (see www.thoughtcast.org) and I'm hoping you might want to contribute some questions!
In the spirit of open-source research, I'd like to get input on my interviews before they're done as well as after -- and of course I would credit you for your questions -- that's half the fun!
I think of my audience as intelligent, curious, but mainstream. So my questions -- and hopefully her answers -- will be pretty basic. But that doesn't make them dull!
Your input would be MOST appreciated!
Thanks very much,
--Jenny
jenny@thoughtcast.org
www.thoughtcast.org

backgammon game boards

backgammon game boards

backgammon game boards
Q: What is green and lives in the ocean?
A: Moby Pickle.

mark

You also don't know how to capitalise properly. 'Postmodernism' is not in any of the categories of word that are capitalised in English. If you want to know what it is, read a basic book on the history of architecture.

Bruce Johnson's SOA(P) Box

Not enough to retire on, but still...

semivoid

Dr Levitt,
Perhaps you could leave a review on Amazon? I wonder how many books your review might help sell.

This is serious though. If you enjoy the book enough to post a blog entry dedicated to it then it should follow that you write a smaller entry. Hey! You might attract some more Freakonomics followers. Or groupies. Hmm.

Robert Schwartz

The real question is how could you keep your concentration around her?

econopete

Postmodernism is just literature after modernism. I don't see what the confusion is about.

Really though, I think it's a fancy word meaning "Group of people who hate materialism, object to elitists' view of art, and make it impossible for rational people to figure out."

michelle

Postmodernism,
the disturbances
that quake the core,
the boundaries when
borders are no more.

its...

More or less a mess
in a never-never land
where everything somehow leads to freud
and with that contemporized
hyperthrophied explanations
that wind everything
back to sex

Dossy's Blog

The world gets closer to proving my "donut shaped universe" theory!

Back in the 1990's, I formulated a theory that the universe is "donut shaped" -- well, I said "toroidal" which most people I hung out with at the time would probably have to look up the definition of, so I...

jennyattiyeh

Dear Steven,
I enjoyed your post on the Society of Fellows. Actually, I'm going to be interviewing Lisa Randall shortly on "Warped Passages" for my podcast interview program on authors and academics called ThoughtCast (see www.thoughtcast.org) and I'm hoping you might want to contribute some questions!
In the spirit of open-source research, I'd like to get input on my interviews before they're done as well as after -- and of course I would credit you for your questions -- that's half the fun!
I think of my audience as intelligent, curious, but mainstream. So my questions -- and hopefully her answers -- will be pretty basic. But that doesn't make them dull!
Your input would be MOST appreciated!
Thanks very much,
--Jenny
jenny@thoughtcast.org
www.thoughtcast.org

backgammon game boards

backgammon game boards

backgammon game boards
Q: What is green and lives in the ocean?
A: Moby Pickle.

mark

You also don't know how to capitalise properly. 'Postmodernism' is not in any of the categories of word that are capitalised in English. If you want to know what it is, read a basic book on the history of architecture.