Sean Carroll | The Biggest Ideas in the Universe!

Sean Carroll joins me to discuss his magnificent new book, The Biggest Ideas In the Universe.

Sean is an American theoretical physicist and philosopher who specializes in quantum mechanics, gravity, and cosmology. He is the Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He has been a contributor to the physics blog Cosmic Variance, and has published in scientific journals such as Nature as well as other publications, including The New York Times, Sky & Telescope and New Scientist. He is known for atheism, critique of theism and defense of naturalism.

Sean has appeared on the History Channel’s The Universe, Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, Closer to Truth (broadcast on PBS), and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Carroll is the author of Spacetime And Geometry, a graduate-level textbook in general relativity, and has also recorded lectures for The Great Courses on cosmology, the physics of time and the Higgs boson.

He is also the author of four other popular books: From Eternity to Here about the arrow of time, The Particle at the End of the Universe about the Higgs boson, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself about ontology, and Something Deeply Hidden about the foundations of quantum mechanics.

Sean began a podcast in 2018 called Mindscape, in which he interviews other experts and intellectuals coming from a variety of disciplines, including “[s]cience, society, philosophy, culture, arts and ideas” in general.He has also published a Youtube video series entitled “The Biggest Ideas in the Universe” which provides physics instruction at a popular-science level but with equations and a mathematical basis, rather than mere analogy. The series has become the basis of a new book series with the installment, “The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion”.

00:04:07 On the tension between philosophy and science and Sean’s book “The Big Picture”

00:07:31 Judging Sean’s book by its cover and the story of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion, book series.

00:16:11 Becoming a professional physicist versus other professions and becoming a physics lover n. Is it worthwhile? How do you do it?

00:21:15 Sean Carroll’s Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship ( )

00:24:14 On the academic “hunger games” and becoming a professor. Is higher education becoming a luxury? Is it obsolete?

00:32:14 What role can AI play in the future of education?

00:34:10 The role of Einstienian gravity and the equivalence principle in The Biggest Ideas.

00:42:00 How do you know your doing a good job of interviewing?

00:45:17 Can a computer feel and/or think?

00:50:00 Can consciousness be effected by gravity? Is there a quantum foundation to consciousness ala Penrose/Hammeroff’s orchestrated reduction?

00:53:51 Have you experimented with psychedelics?

00:58:20 Imaginary numbers and their role in physics. How do classical and quantum mechanics go together?

01:00:00 What do you think of the potential of JWST?

01:03:30 What are you views on the probability of SETI/Alien life?

01:08:10 Maya Beneowitz asks why assume a finite dimensional hilbert space referring to Sean’s talk on extracting the universe from the wave function ( ).

01:16:00 About branch thickness and the many worlds hypothesis. The wave function squared.

01:18:34 Fantastic Four teaser

Mindscape Podcast on Apple



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Brian Keating

Brian Keating


Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor at UC San Diego. Host of The INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE Podcast Author of Losing the Nobel Prize.