Physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf, a contributor to the “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge,” explains how the small differences in theories about space and time might explain why life just happened to happen.
Below is a transcript of the video:
Perhaps the most fundamental philosophical question that you can ask in science is: “Why are we here?”I’m Robbert Dijkgraaf. I am the the Director and Leon Levy Professor of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University and a theoretical physicist.
To understand the universe, we have to bring together the two key ideas that are governing modern physics. On the one hand, we have Einstein’s theory of relativity. That describes the largest structures in the universe in terms of curvature of space and time. On the other hand, we have quantum theory. Which very successfully describes the elementary particles. But it also has issues.
For instance in quantum mechanics you never know exactly what is going to happen. The best thing that you can do is calculate the probability for something to happen. If you look in the very distant past of the universe and we see kind of the baby photo of the universe, we see little spots. And these spots, in the end, grew to galaxies to stars to planets to us.
So it could be that the intrinsic randomness of quantum theory, the fact that things are not uniform. But they’re always fluctuating a little bit, like the surface of a pool where you have small waves. That actually these small fluctuations give rise to everything that we see around us. And so the fundamental feature of quantum theory, the fact that there is chance. That Einstein famously said well that he didn’t believe that God threw dice.
But actually throwing of the dice and probability cause the structure that we see in the universe. And I feel that’s a very poetic and very satisfying way to answer that fundamental question.