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Randall Illuminates the RISDsphere

01/26/2012

When particle physicist Lisa Randall visits RISD, she will probe the implications of research examining the nature of the universe.

As the second scholar to visit as part of RISD’s new Shared Voices series, Lisa Randall will bring the heady stuff of her discipline – particle physics – down to earth for a lay audience when she speaks in the RISD Auditorium on Thursday, February 2. In fact, the Harvard physics professor has become increasingly well known for her ability to translate observations about such esoteric matter as quarks, leptons and gauge bosons into terms that non-scientists can grasp and appreciate.

Since her latest book Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World came out in the fall, Randall has been on a whirlwind, worldwide speaking tour. She is also comfortable bantering with comedians like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, as she did during a recent appearance on The Daily Show. In this, her second book written for a general audience, she looks at where physics is headed now that the Large Hadron Collider – the giant particle accelerator outside Geneva, Switzerland – is finally up and running. Interspersed between her thoughts on why we should all be as excited about particle physics as she is, Randall considers the nature of science, religion and art, spicing up the entire lofty mix with accounts of her own personal adventures. “She brings a thrumming enthusiasm to the topic, but she is unhurried and wryly humorous,” notes the Kirkus Review. 

The nod to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead in both the title of Randall’s new book and the talk she’ll give at RISD hints at another aspect of her approach that is especially meaningful to an art and design school audience – namely, that she is keenly interested in aesthetics, symmetry and the affinity between scientific and artistic beauty. At RISD she’ll also talk about how she has incorporated the themes of her scientific research into several artistic ventures, including an exhibition she curated and an opera she wrote with Spanish composer Hèctor Parra.

Like most good artists, Randall is also a skeptic who totally believes in the value of questioning – and she questions not just the status quo, but the very nature of reality itself. “If the history of science has taught us anything,” she notes in Knocking on Heaven’s Door, “it should be the shortsightedness of believing that what we see is all there is.”

Registration for Randall’s presentation on February 2 is already full, but seating is still available for the simulcast in the Chace Center. In addition, her talk will be webcast live on the Shared Voices site and will be archived there after the event. 

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tags: innovation, interdisciplinary, research, STEAM

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The men in this 1903 portrait class were serious about the business at hand.