that has such people in it

It’s always, hard, at first, to get over how much physics colloquium smells like old men. But then, looking around you think: It’s hardly a wonder.

Alan Guth is the picture of everything I’d imagined Alan Guth to be. His glasses are thick rimmed and thick glassed, his mouth is big lipped and his fine grey hair neatly combed. He walks unevenly although his voice is remarkably measured, assured.

He’s talking about inflation—the rapid expansion of the early Universe—a theory he came up with twenty years ago. Showing us the much-beloved power spectra of the CMB anisotropies produced from the WMAP results with the theoretical prediction considering inflation also plotted (a near perfect match), he remarks that this, this is his favorite graph in the entire world.  Inflation: it seems to work. But soon Guth has turned to string theory is asking us all to envision something larger than our universe: a landscape of many universes, pocketed within each other, each with its own physics: Its own \hbar, its own cosmological constant. All of them are exotic with respect to each other and with our Universe (and galaxy (and solar system (and planet (and epoch)))), where everything seems to be just so.

Consider the fragility of life on Earth (and the fragility of life in the solar system (and the galaxy (and the Universe (and the multiverse)))). This soggy, bacterial globe is nothing short of miraculous; like negative pressure material. The Physics we have invented is astoundingly beautiful, but it pales in comparison to the natural world.

It’s 5 PM in 1 Leconte Hall, and I’m floored by the sound of my own exhalation.


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