Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, spoke about the way scientific ideas have been shaped over time at Union South as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series Wednesday.
Krauss was awarded the National Science Board Public Service award in 2012 for his contributions to public education and is also the author of two bestsellers, “A Universe From Nothing” and “The Physics of Star Trek.”
Krauss is the only person to receive major awards from the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers, DLS Director Bill Mulligan said.
Speaking in front of an audience of about 500, Krauss talked about the countless scientific ideas that have been shaped over time, from the concepts of Plato and Einstein to the ideas of Faraday and Charles Darwin. Krauss engaged the audience in his lecture dubbed “The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far.”
“Darwin’s ideas were among the greatest in all of science,” Krauss said in a birthday tribute to Darwin.
Krauss said Plato was one of most influential scholars of all time. Plato’s famous allegory of “The Cave” describes how this picture portrays peoples’ lives, he said.
“We see a shadow of our reality, nothing more,” Krauss said.
Krauss outlined how many physicists had spent over three decades speaking different languages to build machines that could accurately measure data that had never been imagined before. He said these models represented the “hallmarks of progress.”
Krauss spoke about the matter of infinity among scientists. The vagueness of the term infinity is one of the reasons physicists work as hard as they can to acquire results, he said.
Infinity is something that “doesn’t happen,” Krauss said.
The difference between infinity for scientists and mathematicians is that infinity is not possible in the realms of science, while it is in math, Krauss said.
Krauss said society thinks too much about the significance of an event. People need to realize the universe was not made solely for our existence and is just there, he said.
Individuals only experience a 3-D slice of time at any instant, Krauss said. People in today’s world like to believe that everything happens for a reason, he said.
The reality is there may be no reason, Krauss said. People may be so detached from that reality that they are unable to accept it and would rather accept a “nonsensical” reason for it, he said.
“We want there to be something more than what meets the eye,” Krauss said. “That’s why society has created religion. The universe is not tailored for our existence. It is an accident. There may be no purpose to our existence, but you have to open the doors to know.”
Krauss said his visit at the University of Wisconsin was a “prestigious honor” and said he was grateful for the opportunity.