In this episode of the soul of life I speak to the author of Gravity’s Century: From Einstein’s Eclipse to Images of Black Holes, named one of the best science books of 2020 by NPR’s Ira Flato. Ron has a gift for making the complexities of quantum physics and technology clear and exciting.
We talk about the significance of the last 100 years in astrophysics and touch on the super weird world of quantum mechanics in which matter can be in two places at the same time.
The alternative title for this episode is Ex-nihilo Entanglement. This is the first of several episodes I plan to have on The Soul of Life that touches on quantum physics, the brain, and existence. (Ron’s book isn’t about psychology or existential philosophy but we veer into it briefly).
Of course, we don’t really know if things like quantum entanglement have anything to do with the hypernetwork of electrical activity that gives rise your consciousness—or whether it might one day confirm that human love and connection is in fact star-crossed and our neurons somehow are entangled with those we are parted from the way many mystical religions believe—or frankly how Luke and Obi-Wan use “the force” in Star Wars.
I share what I’ve begun to hear (cautiously) reported from a handful of scientists that study the brain and how they are—like Einstein did actually—daring to make some fascinating leaps into quantum physics because both fields are obsessed with studying the flow of energy—to imagine dimensions beyond our direct perception that nonetheless may underpin our very existence. This episode is about Einstein. It’s also about you. Your existence. And it’s also about existence itself. It gets very weird.
The sheer audacity of matter one moment to exist and another moment not exist—all depending on whether you are looking at it or not. I don’t think we have the words for this yet. Ex Nihilo? Quantum mechanics? Einstein called it “spooky.”
I call it hope.
Award-winning science writer Ron Cowen has a passion for making complex topics in astronomy, physics and the history of technology clear, exciting and visceral to the general public. Gravity’s Century: From Einstein’s Eclipse to Images of Black Holes is published by Harvard Press. He has contributed dozens of articles to magazines and newspapers including National Geographic, Nature, The New York Times, Science, Science News, Scientific American, and US News & World Report.