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Sean M. Carroll

American theoretical cosmologist
Sean M. Carroll, 2008

Sean M. Carroll (born October 5, 1966) is an American theoretical cosmologist, and senior research associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology, specializing in dark energy and general relativity.


  • In contrast to the arbitrarily complicated evolution of a (nonintegrable) classical system, all a quantum state ever does is move in circles.
  • Inflation is a simple idea: imagine that the universe begins in a tiny patch of space dominated by the potential energy of some scalar field, a kind of super-dense dark energy. This causes that patch to expand at a terrifically accelerated rate, smoothing out the density and diluting away any unwanted relics. Eventually the scalar field decays into ordinary matter and radiation, reheating the universe into a conventional Big Bang state, after which things proceed as normal.
  • There probably are more forces than we know about, but they’re only going to be of direct interest to physicists, I’m afraid. No tractor beams.
  • All of my advice comes from remembering what I did wrong and then telling people not to do it. ... Don't wait to read the most recent research papers. ... Wonder how you could do better. ... Do your own research projects. Take the initiative. ... Ask your own questions — try to answer them. ... At some point you stop being a student and you start being a scientist. ... And it's a completely different skill set ..."
  • When exactly does an observation occur? ... What were the laws of physics doing before there was anyone measuring things? And what do you mean by a measurement, anyway? Does it have to be a consciousness human being? ... Can a rock or a virus or an earthworm do an observation?

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