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Interviews | March 17, 2014 5 comments
It's hard to believe that 200 years ago, the Pacific Northwest was one of the most remote and isolated regions in the world. In 1810, four years... Continue »
Helen R. Quinn and Yossi NirDescribe your latest project.
Helen: The puzzle is this: how come the universe has lots of matter well, some anyway; it makes up everything we can see but very little antimatter? To discuss this takes us on a journey across the history of the Universe and through the laws of physics because it is in the interplay of these two things that the puzzle must have an answer. We don't yet know for sure what the answer is, so our book, The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter, explores the options.
Yossi: The mystery of the missing antimatter started as the question of why there is no antimatter in the universe. In time, we understood that, but now the question is, why has matter not disappeared too? Andhow is there so much of it that survived? The story of matter and antimatter in the universe has occupied the minds of physicists for more than seventy years, and is still an open problem that combines cosmology and particle physics. At the same time that we tell the story of science, we use it to tell the story of scientists: how do physicists think? How do they work? What makes them happy?
Helen: I can't help it I guess this book has given me the writing bug. My head is full of things that I think are worth explaining for those who are interested. I write too much. However, the real crunch comes when there's a deadline to be met then I have to stop playing around and start editing and reworking 'til it is short and clear enough to be interesting and readable.
Yossi: In my case, this is the wrong question. I do not need inspiration to write. Instead, writing inspires my thinking. Somehow, when I write, my thinking becomes more creative, sharper, and more critical.
Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
Yossi: Mario Livio, currently an astrophysicist in the Hubble Space Telescope Science Center, was my physics teacher at high school. He was enthusiastic, full of charm, and happy to play basketball with the students during the break. I often think that I chose to study physics not because I knew what it would be like to do physics, but because Mario was the most charismatic teacher. But whether I chose physics for the wrong or the right reasons, I never had any regrets about this choice.
Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
Chess or video games?
Yossi: Neither. I do not have the patience for chess. And I was born too early to appreciate video games.
What do you do for relaxation?
What's your favorite Blog right now?
Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
What was your favorite book as a kid?
What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
Yossi: I believe that the most amazing scientist of them all was Isaac Newton. I am intrigued to grasp how his mind worked. But I have no wish to live his life. I have a feeling that he was not happy, not even for one day of his life.
What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
Yossi: My Ph.D. advisor in the university once told me that someone that was good in all subjects at school is unlikely to become a good physicist. Since then, I hesitate to admit the truth: I was very good in all subjects.
By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
Which country do you believe currently leads the world in science and technology? In ten years?
Yossi: Let me focus on my own field in science, that is, particle physics. For many years, the leadership was shared by Europe and the US. But in the last few years, the US is cutting drastically its experimental program, giving up on leadership. A question such as What is the dark matter made of? may find an answer in ten years or so but, if it happens, it will happen in Europe.
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Helen R. Quinn is professor of physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Stanford University. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, she is the coauthor of The Charm of Strange Quarks: Mysteries and Revolutions of Particle Physics.
Yossi Nir is professor of physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.